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The Art Of A Calm Kitchen: Cooking With Kids Without The Chaos

For many parents, initial attempts at cooking with young children prove chaotic at best. Memories persist of messy kitchens, inevitable spills, and stress over both finished products and the havoc created by producing them. Children’s emotional meltdowns over tasks compound the frustration of adults. In the aftermath, family cooking often seems more trouble than it’s worth.

However, the life skills children gain, paired with the special bonding that arises during the process, make persevering through the growing pains worthwhile. After some trial and error, parents can utilise the concept of a “calm kitchen” to transform cooking with kids from stressful battles into enjoyable, memorable family experiences.

This article will provide you with practical ways to cook with your children without the chaos. Read on.

Setting The Stage For Calm


To minimise potential mess and distraction, prepare your kitchen in advance. Clear clutter from counters, set out the ingredients and equipment needed, and designate spaces for each child to work. Adjust each child’s workspace to include a stable step stool and appropriately sized tools, if necessary.

Allow open windows for fresh air to circulate. Consider a diffuser with rosemary or lemongrass essential oils to enhance the kitchen’s mood without overwhelming food aromas. These scents can also boost focus and reduce anxiety.

If cooking outdoors, bugs could pose a problem and cause unnecessary disarray. Wear mosquito patches for adults and prevent kids mosquito bites by giving them patches as well. These handy items will keep pesky insects at bay as you all focus on cooking easy recipes together.


Setting realistic expectations is essential when cooking with children. Explain that mistakes are part of learning, and the goal is to have fun together, not produce perfect meals. Maintain patience and humour if challenges arise. Open communication allows children to express any frustrations before they escalate.

mum cooking with daughter

Cooking With Calm

Age-Appropriate Tasks

Break down recipe instructions based on age and skill level. Preschoolers can do easy techniques like stirring, sprinkling ingredients and tearing lettuce. Meanwhile, older kids can measure liquids or operate appliances with supervision. Give choices when possible so your children feel involved.

Calming Activities

While cooking with your children, expect some inevitable mistakes to happen, which may trigger frustration in your little ones. Build in calming exercises like taking deep breaths, doing shoulder rolls during downtime, or singing along to music. Sensory play with dough or garnishes also keeps their tiny hands busy.

Praise your kids when they manage their emotions or fix their mistakes independently. They’ll eventually equate minor blunders as significant learning opportunities.

Kitchen Management

Establish a few direct rules like walking instead of running, listening when others talk, and wiping spills promptly. The consequences for breaking the rules should be logical, like helping clean up. Encourage the use of stable bowls and containers and teach children how to handle them carefully to reduce spills.

Recipes For Calm

Simple and Kid-Friendly Recipes

When deciding what to cook, remember that you’re working with young children, not a trained team of chefs. Start with simpler recipes that use a manageable number of ingredients and straightforward methods to minimise frustration for beginners. Some options you can try cooking or baking together are lemon pudding and French bread pizza. In fact all our recipes on our website are suitable for cooking with kids.

Introduce safe knife skills early with appropriate supervision and tools, using cookie cutters as a creative alternative for younger children. Teach nutrition by contrasting healthy items like vegetables or lean proteins with less nutritious choices.

Involve Kids in Recipe Selection

Encourage children to participate in selecting recipes, which fosters interest and engagement in the cooking process. They can either choose their favourites, get creative online, or make easy family recipes. Discuss the instructions together ahead of time, pointing out steps they can manage themselves. Doing this beforehand promotes focus and ownership of tasks in your children.

Maintaining The Calm

Celebrate Successes

Offer frequent, sincere praise for effort and listening skills, not just the final product. Taking photos during the process and displaying them afterwards is a visual reminder of teamwork. Make a tradition of everyone sharing their favourite parts while enjoying the finished meal together.

Address Challenges with Calm

If emotions escalate, validate feelings verbally first while modelling deep breaths. Redirecting your child to a manageable task or a short break may be needed. Follow up later about better choices next time. Avoid lecturing or criticism in the heat of the moment.

Make It a Regular Habit

Plan regular, flexible cooking sessions that cater to your children’s interests and skill levels, increasing complexity gradually as their skills develop. Consistency allows confidence to grow through positive reinforcement.

Most importantly, emphasise the joy and learning from each cooking session when recapping. Help your children view cooking as a fun activity and life skill, not just a chore.


While cooking with children comes with its own set of challenges, these strategies can make cooking a rewarding experience for both of you. Preparing the environment, recipes, and yourself mentally are examples that can make the experience less troublesome. Children can more confidently build vital life skills and family traditions that will last a lifetime.

So, prep your cooking tools and get your kids ready for an exciting day of creating delicious meals. What memories will your kitchen create?

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Janine Mergler

Janine Mergler is a veteran Queensland teacher, graduating from QUT with a BEd majoring in Social Sciences. After many years in the classroom, Janine moved on to academia. She has proudly trained new generations of teachers in her role as a lecturer at Queensland University of Technology Faculty of Education. She has also worked in the Queensland Government as an education specialist, developing education resources and delivering community awareness programs to help families conserve water. Currently she is the owner and editor of Families Magazine, a publication specifically targeted at parents who value a quality education for children.  Janine leads a team of professionals who write about family lifestyle, early childhood, schools and education information and family-friendly events.

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