This Cooking with Kids post is a part of the 7 Weeks of Summer Camp at Home Series! It contains no affiliate links because Louisiana is a silly little state that won’t let us be great. LOL!
I used to be real old school when it came to kids in my kitchen. Mainly because I have boys and they’re always full of dirt and grit and boy stuff. But since they’ve grown up a bit and understand the whole “germ” situation, we can get down together in the kitchen from time to time. I say from time to time because the way my nerves are set up, I can’t always concentrate on creating deliciousness with a 6 & 4 year old asking a fazillion questions and a 15 month old dancing around my feet.
They always get their fill of kitchen time in the summer months. The cooking is light and eating outside happens often. Our three gardens allow us to plan a day’s worth of activities around fresh food. If you don’t have a garden you can check HERE for a Pick-Your-Own farm in your area. PYO farms are a fantastic day trip for families and CHEAP!
Cooking with kids has been a great way to reinforce some of the things they learn during the school year. Measurements, chemistry (what mixes, what doesn’t), and home economics (i.e. cleaning up after themselves, portioning meals). It’s a good time to talk about nutrition and body positivity as well. It’s also a great way to build appreciation for “what mommy does all day” and get them more involved in helping out around the house.
Easy things to cook with kids
Children love to feel that “all by myself” feeling. I let the boys work the waffle iron anytime we do waffles. Alternately, big kids can scoop the pancake filling onto the griddle (carefully of course).
Let kids pick their own mix-ins and toppings for waffles and pancakes to create a breakfast “waffle bar”. Some options are: chocolate chips (or cacao nibs, I see you crunchy!), sprinkles, chopped fruit, chopped nuts, homemade granola.
I made these delicious Sweet Potato Pancakes with the boys a few weeks ago and shared the recipe HERE
Add some “fance” to your breakfast spread with some assorted fruits and nuts (that the kids probably won’t eat, but they’re pretty). Hand mixers are the perfect size for little hands and of course you can hold their hands to guide them away from making a huge mess with it. I made these using left over baby food which cleared up some much needed cabinet space.
Taco Tuesday + Homemade Tortillas = Love
Tortillas are easy and versatile. Who doesn’t love tacos and burritos and just a nice piece of cooked bread with cheese? Just me? OK, but imagine being able to make your own with no additives and at less than $1 for 12, how can you beat that? Tortillas, or any flat bread, are perfect for cooking with kids. If they happen to get bored with the cooking process, you can give them a lump of dough to make snow men and worms. Instant play dough.
- 2 cups flour
- 2 tsp baking powder
- a pinch of salt
- 1 Tbsp oil
- 1 cup water
- Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl
- Add oil. Combine until flour is loose and crumbly.
- Add water. Stir or use a stand mixer to form a soft dough.
- Knead the dough until smooth, use your fingers to add air pockets for light and fluffy tortillas.
- Separate into 12 balls and let rest for 15 minutes minimum.
- Roll out into 6" rounds.
- Add oil to a small round skillet and heat to medium high.
- Cook tortillas for 30 seconds per side on heated skillet.
I like the “idea” of making penguins and turtles out of their food, but I’m about being practical and quick in the kitchen. No finger food for dinner! I think folks do that to trick kids into eating veggies (and because it’s Pinterest-cute!) My kids are too smart for that though. I get them to eat their veggies in sneakier ways (sweets anyone?). I talked about that in this post a few months back.
I can hear you already. “What kid needs more energy?!” This one is their labor of love for YOU mama! Plus, they’re not technically cooked so you can let the bigger kids have at this recipe. Just set out the ingredients and let them mix. I made these energy balls right before I went into labor with Nugget and they were SOOOO good I make them all the time now.
Do’s and Dont’s of Cooking with Kids
Have you ever let a three year old crack an egg into your cake batter?
Letting my boys into the kitchen has shown me a lot of “what NOT to do” when you have the littles in your domain.
I’ve also learned some good practices to help them have the most fun in the kitchen.
- Keep it simple – try to only cook things with only a few ingredients when you’re cooking with kids.
- Lighten Up – when your chirren are in the kitchen is not the time for perfection. Cook meals that you won’t mind turning out a lil wonky.
- Get them their own utensils – cheap kitchen equipment from the $1 store should be enough but kids don’t always understand the importance of your “good spoon” so make sure they have their own
- Expect a mess – Messes are always cleaned up eventually. Sharing the cooking experience is what’s important here. Let them get a little messy for some extra sensory fun.
- Overcomplicate it – I can’t stress this enough. The kids aren’t your best kitchen partners for the get-together meal.
- Stress – the point here isn’t creating a Martha Stewart worthy meal. Getting frustrated or stressed makes the littles feel defeated and like they’re “doing it wrong. Have some fun!
- Overestimate what your kids know – The kitchen is full of danger. (but we walk on the wild side, we laugh in the face of danger! – couldn’t resist a Lion King reference there). Alright, back to business. Never think your kids know all the hots, sharps, etc. in the kitchen. Use your cooking time as a teachable moment to make sure they understand proper kitchen behavior. (Like don’t run with knives.)
There’s a ton of cookbooks for kids out there. I love them. I try to let the boys in the kitchen at least once a week and cookbooks make the planning easy.
I especially love the International Cookbook for Kids because we plan to add “World Travel with Kids” to our repertoire. International foods can have some especially complex (and delicious) flavors that children will try out easier if they DIY it.
Some nights I’m a pretend vegan and I drag my family along for that. I’m crunchy all the time but vegan only like 35%, but when I am THIS is the cookbook I use. It’s written by mommy just like us. Ayida Honor (my mom life role model) created these recipes to feed her family of 7 so they’re always hearty. She’s also lived on just about every Caribbean island so you KNOW there’s flavor on top of flavor.
Cooking with kids has so many fun benefits. You build a stronger bond with your little ones and help them to be more independent. They also learn to appreciate your work and what they put into their bodies. With so many great resources and easy, multi purpose recipes, there will be more than enough reason to let them help you out in the kitchen all summer long.
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