When I was a young child, my carefree summers meant long morning visits to the public library, leisurely afternoons at the pool, and lots of fun activities in the kitchen. Now that I have two kids, I realize that my mom was carefully choreographing many of those kitchen undertakings. After all with inquisitive kids underfoot in the summer, they might as well give you a hand in the kitchen!
5 Tips to Get Started
Getting kids active in the kitchen may seem like a bit of work up front, but the payoff is well worth it. Here are a few recommendations to get you and your little one off to a good start.
Set up a space. Set up a workstation for your child. My children love having their own area with their own cutting board and tools.
Consider their age. Set age-appropriate tasks with duties increasing in complexity for older kids. My two-year loves using cookie cutters, shaping meatballs and dough, dumping dry ingredients and taste testing, of course. However, my five-year old is doing much more including using a knife — under watchful eyes. (Be mindful of sharp edges and potential choking hazards for kids of all ages.)
Prep ahead, if needed. For my two-year old, I have the mise en place ready ahead of time. Spending time chopping, portioning and measuring is less interesting to her than dumping, stirring and blending. So for now, we have the ingredients ready for action when she steps up to the counter.
Don’t fear the food processor! Little fingers are perfect for pressing the buttons. Have them help chop and shred veggies for salsas, dips and spreads; make bread crumbs and cookie crumbs; and blend soups and pasta sauces.
Get creative. Start with foods they already love but remember that kids are more likely to eat new foods that they’ve helped prepare. Have a roll-your-own burrito night, make personal pizzas, blend smoothies, make pancakes, and introduce new-to-them toppings and add-ins. My five-year old loves to make hummus and muffins, so we experiment with various ingredients in those everyday favorite such as Green Garbanzo Hummus and Gluten-Free Flaxseed Muffins.
Fast Easy Recipes
Cooking with kids doesn’t need to be a full-blown production. Sometimes a handful of ingredients and a few minutes of prep is all you need.
2 Ingredients. Make chocolate sauce that magically hardens with 2 cups high-quality dark chocolate + ¼ cup refined coconut oil. Melt both ingredients together. Pour over ice cream, and wait until it hardens — about a minute — before enjoying. (It makes 1 cup chocolate sauce.)
3 Ingredients. Make a parfait! Grab fresh fruit + something crunchy + something creamy.
4 ingredients. With just a banana, Greek yogurt, trail mix and your favorite cereal, Breakfast Banana Splits put a fun spin on breakfast.
Depending on your child’s age, you can also blend in basic identification (colors, shapes, names) or whip up a quick lesson on food sourcing or nutrition. Looking for inspiration? Thanks to the Whole Kids Foundation’s® Better Bites you can engage your kids in the kitchen with quick and easy recipes and pack more nutrition in every bite. These online lessons make it easy and fun to discover bite-sized inspiration and easy-to-digest nutrition information and tips.
I’d love to hear what your child likes pouring, mixing, whisking, kneading, tearing, sifting, juicing, grating, mashing, peeling or rinsing. Share ideas and tips in the comments section.