The long, lazy days of summer are upon us and if you’re looking for some fun activities to keep the kids busy, try bringing them into the kitchen! Cooking with kids is a subject very near and dear to my heart. As the mother of a six year old, I find cooking with my daughter is a great way to encourage her to try new foods, learn about nutrition, and develop her math and reading skills. Most importantly, however, it’s a special way for us to spend time together doing something we both enjoy. It’s also a great opportunity to talk about healthy eating and making good food choices.
When she was about two or three years old, she’d stand on her little step stool beside me at the kitchen counter and I’d give her a big mixing bowl, a rubber spatula and lots of little leftover tidbits from around the kitchen to mix together and “cook” with. She’d take the last bit of salad dressing, an old jar of spices, stale cereal and fruits and vegetables that were past their prime and she’d mix them together with such joy and pride at her creation. Any parent reading this knows what comes next – yes, I had to taste each of her creations and they were all “delicious, honey!” Now that she’s older she can select recipes from cookbooks, help me shop for the food and measure and mix ingredients.
One of my first jobs in the culinary world was teaching kid’s cooking classes for a non-profit organization called Common Threads. Working with the kids and experiencing their enthusiasm about food and cooking still stands as one of the highlights of my career.
Here are a few tips to help make the most of your time in the kitchen with kids….
Involve them in the planning
Let the kids choose a recipe. There are so many great, kid-friendly cookbooks and websites. Take some time to peruse them with your kids and let them choose what you make.
Take them to the grocery store and have them help shop for the ingredients. Let them feel the avocados and choose the one that’s ripe. Talk to them about the different types of produce available throughout the seasons. My daughter loves it when the guy behind the seafood counter holds out a live lobster for her to see. Make grocery shopping fun!
Set up a kid-friendly work station
This goes without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway….No sharp knives near young kids. Be super cautious about kitchen equipment that could potentially be dangerous. Knives, graters, scissors and certainly hot stoves, pots and pans should all be kept a safe distance from young, curious hands and fingers.
Cooking isn’t much fun when you can’t see over the counter. Bring a step stool into the kitchen so they can see what they’re doing.
Kitchen supply stores are filled with kid-friendly equipment – miniature rolling pins, cookie cutters, mixing bowls, spatulas, etc. Keep a stash around for pint sized hands. My daughter loves her pink mini-rolling pin from Williams-Sonoma.
Let’s face it, kids are dirty. Adorable but filthy. Have them wash their hands early and often. Show them the importance of rinsing produce and cleaning the kitchen as you work.
Enjoy the experience!
This is the most important part – let go of the idea of Pin-worthy creations. Cooking with kids will be messy, there will be mistakes and not everything is going to turn out as planned. The point is to spend time together, learn new skills and have fun!
Here are a few awesome ideas for hands-on recipes you and your kids can make together this summer…
Homemade Summer Rolls with Easy Peanut Dipping Sauce
image and recipe via Sally’s Baking Addiction
Older kids can help chop the vegetables, younger kids can make the sauce and kids of all ages will enjoy wrapping the spring rolls. Kids will love the peanut sauce which makes this a great recipe for introducing some new ingredients, textures and flavors that kids may not be familiar with.
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies
image and recipe via PBS
Kids can measure out the ingredients and and help scoop the batter onto the baking sheet. Older kids can use the hand mixer to combine the ingredients and licking the beaters when you’re done is always encouraged. 🙂
Baked Parmesan Zucchini
image and recipe via Damn Delicious
Kids will love dredging the zucchini in the parmesan mixture and this addictive recipe will get even picky eaters to eat their vegetables.
Parmesan Crusted Tilapia
image and recipe via The Krave
My daughter and I make this for dinner all the time. She measures the ingredients for the parmesan bread crumbs, mixes them together in a large bowl and dredges the fish in the breadcrumbs. It’s like a healthy, homemade version of fish sticks!