One of my goals this summer has been to spend more time with the kids in the kitchen. The long summer days (and ensuing boredom) are perfect for getting them involved. I purchased this cooking kit from Amazon and surprised them with it when school ended. We’ve been having a lot of fun trying new things this summer.
I will be the first to admit that cooking with kids (especially young kids) is not easy and can be really frustrating. Honestly, it’s so much easier to just do it without them. But it’s worth it because there are a lot of valuable lessons to be learned by spending time with your kids in the kitchen. Here are just a few:
- I have found that my kids are more likely to try new things when they’ve had a part in making them. They aren’t surprised to see spinach in the soup when they’ve helped drop it in the pot. They aren’t upset by the nuts in the granola when they’ve helped chop them. They are more likely to eat the tomatoes on the pizza if they are the ones putting them on. I know this won’t be the case 100% of the time but you never know until you try. Sometimes kids just want a little control over what they eat and getting them involved helps them have that control.
- Kids are practicing listening, following directions, and self control when helping out in the kitchen. We have had to have a lot of talks about how important it is to follow directions and practice self control when they help me. They want to touch everything, lick the spoons as we go, and play around. And while eating what we make and having fun is important, they also need to know when it’s appropriate and when it’s not.
- There are a lot of math, science, and reading lessons that can be naturally incorporated into cooking. Learning to read recipes, related vocabulary, food safety, cooking techniques, measuring, counting, and fractions are just a few things that they are learning when they cook with you.
- While you are working along side your kids in the kitchen it’s the perfect opportunity to talk about some of the health benefits of the foods you are making. You can talk about how eating a balanced diet with a variety of foods help them grow bigger and stronger. Tell them why you are adding the carrots and spinach to the meatballs. It’s also the perfect time to talk about how cooking and eating at home is important to their health. We want to lay the foundation for a healthy lifestyle for our kids and teaching them to be able to cook for themselves (and not just cookies and brownies) is a great place to start!
While cooking with your kids offers a lot of benefits it doesn’t come without its difficulties. So here are some tips that have worked for me to make it a little bit easier:
- Make sure to read through the entire recipe before getting started. You don’t want any surprises that you weren’t prepared for to pop up.
- Gather together the ingredients before you get started. I get everything together and set it on the counter next to where we will be working. I know that if I have to stop and go get each ingredient as we go the boys will start playing around, which means a mess is more likely to happen. Getting organized before starting is the most important thing you can do to make things go more smoothly.
- Also, gather any cooking utensils you need (measuring spoons, cups, pots, pans, knives, bowls, etc.) Again, young kids don’t have a long attention span. The more organized you are, the better. As your kids get older you can actually involve them in gathering the ingredients and cooking utensils.
- Depending on your kids ages, you should expect them to lose interest. Sometimes my boys start to get bored when we cook together and that’s okay. Sometimes they might just help for the first few steps. They are still learning valuable skills even if it’s just for a little while. They don’t have to make an entire recipe to get some of the benefits of being with you in the kitchen. The older they get the longer they will be able to help.
- If you have young kids you might want to consider spending one on one time with them in the kitchen. Having two young boys, I sometimes find it easier to work with each of them alone rather than together. As your kids get older it will be easier to have multiple kids with you in the kitchen at once.
- Relax and enjoy the crazy! Easier said than done, I know. Sometimes I find myself getting frustrated because my boys are being a little crazy. They chop with a little too much gusto or stir a little too excitedly and food spills over the edge of the bowl. But I know they are having fun and that’s important. I have to remind myself that we are making memories!
I know most kids will happily help make cookies or brownies but I think it’s also a good idea to have them help out with other types of recipes as well. Here are ten ideas to get you started:
1. Snack Mix
My kids love to make their own “snack mix”. This was my seven year old’s suggestion as the first thing we make together this summer. He went with me to Sprouts and picked a few things out of the bulk bins and we also used some things we already had on hand. We ended up using several types of nuts, raisins, Mom’s Best Honey O’s, pretzels and dark chocolate chips. They each made a big bag and had it as their afternoon snack throughout the week. This is a great place to start with young kids because it doesn’t involve any cooking. But they can still use measuring spoons and cups.
My boys love granola. One of their favorite things to do is chop the nuts. This is actually the way I finally got my seven year old to stop picking out the nuts. Now he’s responsible for cutting them small enough so that he will eat them. I bought these knives for kids and they have worked out really well. Plus, granola is a great recipe for practicing measuring skills since there are a lot of dry ingredients that go into it (oats, nuts, seeds, coconut, and several spices). A lot of the time I’ll have them help me with the dry ingredients and then I finish from there.
3. Scrambled Eggs
Scrambled eggs are quick and easy. If your kids are old enough they can begin to practice cracking the eggs. If not, you can crack the eggs and the kids can help you whisk them, add milk and cheese (if you are adding them), and pour them into the pan. We love scrambled eggs for breakfast and we always make enough to have extras for the next day or two.
4. Frozen Yogurt Cubes
This is a favorite snack of my boys. It’s super easy and perfect for the little ones. Just combine about a cup of plain yogurt (I use Greek), a cup of fruit (frozen or fresh) and a tablespoon of honey or maple syrup. Mix them in a food processor, pour into ice cube molds and freeze. Pop them out for a healthy snack. You could also pour them into popsicle molds. For the ones in the pictures below we made strawberry and mango.
5. Muffins or Pancakes
Muffins and pancakes are great recipes to make with kids because they involve a lot of measuring, pouring, and mixing. Kids also love scooping the mix into the muffin tin or pouring it onto the pancake griddle. Our favorite recipes to make are these sweet potato muffins, pumpkin muffins, and multigrain pancakes.
Pita chips are very easy to make and the results make a delicious snack or addition to your lunch or dinner. All you have to do is cut up pita bread and let the kids brush on the olive oil with basting brushes. Add a little salt and pop them in the oven.
Quiche is another of my kids’ favorite recipes. They love to mix up the ingredients for the crust and help press it down into the pie plate or muffin tins. I like to involve the kids in making quiche because it gives them an opportunity to pick out some veggies to put into it that they would likely not otherwise eat. I really try to give them some control and every time they surprise me with what they will put in.
8. Homemade Pizza
Who doesn’t love pizza? There are a lot of great homemade pizza dough recipes out there or you can find premade dough at your grocery store. Chop up the topping ingredients and set it all out and let the kids make their own. Be sure to put out some veggies and encourage them to try something new. Even if it’s just 3 tiny pieces of spinach the first time. Maybe next time they will add a little more. (A tip for getting your kids to add veggies is to chop it all up very small. I don’t set out big chunks of tomato or whole spinach leaves. My kids are more likely to add veggies if they are very small. Once they are used to them in a small size you can start chopping them into larger pieces.) I set out the pastry brushes to make brushing on the sauces even more fun.
This is a recipe that’s a hit with our whole family. Have the kids help cut the hotdogs into thirds and place them in the muffin tin. They can also help measure out and stir the cornbread mix and help pour it into the muffin cups. It’s easy and tasty.
10. Granola Bars
My boys are constantly asking me if we can make granola bars. Again, this is a great recipe that involves plenty of measuring, pouring, and mixing. There are recipes all over the internet for homemade granola bars and most of them are pretty easy. Find a few that look easy to you and then let them pick. They will be more excited to help if they get to choose the recipe.
If your kids are a little older and you really want to get them more involved from start to finish here is a great idea for you. Have them look through your cookbooks and choose a recipe, make the grocery list, help you shop and then let them help you cook the meal. If they are old enough they can cook it themselves. Take a peek at this post with tips and suggestions for how one family did just this with their kids.
How about you? What do you like to make with your kids in the kitchen?