Ben's Beginners: Lucy Kennedy has a sizzling good time cooking with her kids

Helen O’Callaghan says kids can learn a lot in the kitchen.

TV star Lucy Kennedy admits being initially put off the idea of cooking with her children.

“I really had to get over the idea of rice on the floor and brownie mix on the curtains. I’ve learnt to just relax when we cook together and to think about the cleaning once we’re done,” says the mum of two, who’s expecting her third child next month.

Now, she, Jack, seven, and Holly, four, cook “simple little meals” together. “Jack measures, Holly stirs.”

When I talk to Lucy, she’s planning to make spaghetti Bolognese with them that evening.

“We make lasagne, chicken stir-fry with rice and lots of brownies. It’s real intense quality time with them and I love it,” she says.

Lucy recently launched the fourth year of the Ben’s Beginners programme, which this year introduces ‘Cook & Play’ — a free online course that teaches children and parents new skills while having fun together in the kitchen.

The Ben’s Beginners Survey found parents believe cooking develops key skills in their children, yet they don’t regularly involve children in cooking.

More than eight in 10 parents believe their children can identify and use common cooking utensils — yet four in 10 children have never used a grater, while others have never used a measuring jug or wooden spoon.

And while one in four kids say cooking with parents is ‘the most fun thing to do at home’, more than half of parents only cook once a week with their children.

Cook & Play with Ben’s Beginners has been developed in conjunction with Louise Lennox and Aisling Larkin, children’s food specialists with over 20 years combined experience working in the space of children’s food and education. Lennox says cooking with kids develops a life skill.

“It also helps to improve their motor, maths, sharing and teamwork skills,” she says.

Cook & Play teaches children skills in three age groups. Three to six-year-olds learn weighing/measuring, cutting with scissors and grating, while learning to cook Teriyaki Pork Meatballs.

Seven to nine-year-olds learn peeling, poaching and how to cook rice. They cook dishes such as falafel powerball wraps. Those aged 10 and over learn how to chop with a knife, shallow fry and make béchamel sauce and how to make Japanese Chicken Katsu Curry.

The online course includes recipe videos for specific age groups. n See:

Top tips

  • When cooking with kids, expect it to take longer than it otherwise would.
  • Cooking’s a messy activity, all the more so with kids involved. Accept there’ll be mess. Involve everybody in post-cook clean-up.
  • Teach kids about food hygiene — wash hands beforehand and in between handling raw and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Prepare ahead — pick a recipe you know they’ll like, one that involves activities they’ll be able for.


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