Honing an important life skill, adopting a healthier diet, building confidence: There’s no shortage of reasons for why it’s important to teach your children to cook. But every time you ask the kiddos to help you in the kitchen, your pleas seem to fall on headphone-blocked ears. That’s why we tapped the Editor-in-Chief at America’s Test Kitchen for Kids, Molly Birnbaum, to share her creative ideas for getting them involved. Here’s what she had to say.

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1. Include Them Early in The Process

“Getting kids involved (and invested!) from the very beginning will inspire them to help out in the kitchen. This means picking out recipes to cook together and gathering the ingredients and kitchen tools you’ll need,” said Birnbaum. “Gardening is also another great way to get kids invested. If you watch your snow peas grow from seed to vegetable, they're much more interesting to eat!”

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2. USE YOUR IMAGINATION TO MAKE IT APPEALING

Let’s face it, a lot of cooking steps can feel pretty boring. Stirring or slicing? Eh. But smashing something? Now she’s listening. Next time, try one of our favorite ideas for homemade pizza or pasta sauce: Fill a Ziploc® brand slider bag with canned tomatoes and have your kid crush them up in the bag. It’s fun, it’s safe and best of all, the mess of smushing and crushing the tomatoes will be totally contained. New Power Shield technology from Ziploc® brand means that no matter how hard little Charlie shakes it up, the bag won’t break or tear.

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3. Make Meal Prep a Game

“Games make everything more fun, especially for younger kids, or kids who are unfamiliar with the kitchen,” Birnbaum said. “For the youngest chefs, counting ingredients or making up songs as you cook is a good way to go. You can set up playful contests between siblings (who can roll dough into cookies the fastest, or roundest, or flattest? etc.).”

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4. Let Them Take the Lead

Birnbaum suggests that giving kids ages eight and up a little authority in the kitchen can be a powerful tool. “Let them pick out the recipe they'll cook, and then run with it. You can be there to help and support, but the pride the kids will feel when they finish their own recipe will bring them back for more,” Birnbaum said. If you have a family recipe box or folder, let your young ones choose from one of these hand-me-downs to make the baking or cooking even more interactive. While they’re playing chef, your role as sous chef can include sharing tidbits about family history or FaceTimeing Grandma so she can weigh in on why her roast turkey is better than the rest.

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5. Encourage Them Be Creative

As much as you’d like to stick to the exact wording of the recipe or opt for healthy ingredients, letting kids have a bit of freedom in the kitchen can inspire and motivate them. “Kids can follow recipe direction, sure,” Birnbaum said. “But they often get really into cooking when they have a license for creativity. I like to encourage kids to make things their own way— with toppings or variations of any kind. For example, adding mix-ins to pancake or muffin batter, or toppings to tacos or rice bowls.”

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