Wil and Lauren Wood, owners, Love to Cook

Do you see photos of your friends and mommy bloggers cooking in clean, hip kitchens with their stylishly dressed kids? Yeah we’ve seen them too, and we don’t know how they do it. Our cooking endeavors usually start with an idea and end with full tummies and a load of laundry.

For the last decade we owned and ran our own made-from-scratch bakery, the Great Harvest Bread Company in Meridian, ID. It was a ton of work and sometimes it was beyond tough. Pans would fall into the back of our oven and we had to fish them out, which meant going into a 300-degree room so a day’s worth of bread wouldn’t get burned. Equipment would break, employees wouldn’t show up, people would get sick, ingredients would run out and the list goes on. We learned that happiness is a choice and so is having fun. As our children passed the toddler stage we learned how to integrate them into the bakery as well as cooking and baking at home. Here are some tips for you:

1. Plan ahead. A little bit of food prep will go a long way. Having a recipe ready that they will be excited about and can participate in makes it more exciting for everyone.

2. Expect the mess. Get ready by putting on bibs and aprons or changing into some old pajamas. Yes, we do that! You can also put down plastic tablecloths on the ground to ease the cleanup.

3. Don’t worry about the time and be safe. Put on some Bob Marley music and chill! This isn’t the cook line at a restaurant, it’s a family activity. Take time to be safe and clean. Teach about proper hand washing, crosscontamination, and other things that may seem like common sense. Use a clean spoon to taste. Our oldest son is 9, and he’s been learning to cut and chop. We have to observe him really closly, but it makes sense to him and he feels empowered because he’s good at it.

4. Taste and touch. This is one of the best parts! What do raw veggies taste like? Wil thinks sugar cookie dough is gross uncooked, but Lauren likes it! If you’re OK with raw eggs… let them try it; that’s a learning opportunity. Is it safe to eat before it’s cooked? Why can’t you double dip? Teach them how to taste as they go and learn about what the food is and what it does when it’s cooked.

5. Make it fun! Duh. But really, how? It all starts with you, the parent, having fun and being relaxed. Your behavior will be mirrored by them. Give them permission to have fun and work hard by exemplifying those traits. Never underestimate the power of loud music and some sweet dance moves. Kitchen dance parties are a great way to get some wiggles out.