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Every day, I have the same two big items on my to do list- spend time with the kids and make dinner.
I love to get both done at once!
But I was also getting sick of eating cereal for dinner… since that was the only food my kids knew how to help me “make”.
We decided to branch out. I realized that if I really wanted to have more options of what to cook with my kids, I needed to teach them some basic cooking skills! I was excited about this idea, since I knew these skills would become valuable life lessons!!
And I could eat more variety of delicious meals, NOW!
Here are some of my favorite meals or deserts to cook with my kids’ help… along with the life lesson that my kids learned from each cooking experience!
1) Anything out of a box.
I know, I know…. These things are rarely healthy. But they are easy and yummy! And a great experience for your kids.
And when they go to college, these will probably be their staple food items anyways, so they might as well know how to cook them.
Food out of a box is the best preparation for reading and following a recipe for a child who is beginning to cook.
It is simplified, has few ingredients, and is easy to follow. Making these easy food items gives kids confidence that they can make more complex foods by following a recipe.
But that’s not all! Kids also learn concepts like:
- checking to make sure you have the ingredients before you begin cooking,
- measuring ingredients,
- substituting ingredients as needed (my kiddo learned this when we realized we were out of butter so we used applesauce in our cookie dough instead!)
- having appropriate cleanliness in the kitchen,
- asking questions as they learn!
Here are some of my favorite boxed foods to prepare with my kids:
- Hamburger Helper
- Pasta Salads
- Mac N Cheese
- Top Roman (If you’re sick of Top Roman, try adding in fun extras like fresh veggies or meats.)
2) Snow Ice Cream
This recipe is usually my kids’ VERY VERY first experience “cooking” with me. They make their own Snow Ice Cream when they are as young as 1 1/2-2 years old.
‘ love it because they get to feel involved and get a taste of making their own food… with absolutely no possibility of getting hurt in the kitchen. No heat, no knives, no worries!
This recipe is so fun and easy to make! It is seasonal… and dependent on the weather… but if your kids love to make it, you could always substitute shaved ice for the snow.
And of course, (I can’t stress this enough…) make sure your kids are gathering clean snow. 😊
Snow Ice Cream
2 cups Clean Snow (or shaved ice)
2-3 Tbsp. Sweetened Condensed Milk
1 drop of Vanilla (or Root Beer Flavoring, or Strawberry Flavoring, or Orange Flavoring, etc…)
First, gather clean snow from outside right after a snowfall. I prefer to set a clean bowl outside during a snowfall. The bowl slowly fills up with perfectly fresh and 100% clean snow. No hoping or guessing that the snow hasn’t been somewhere yucky. If you are going to allow your kids to gather their own snow, this step takes a lot of supervision to make sure the kids aren’t gathering snow from the wrong places.
Second, divide the snow into cups for each child. Add the remaining ingredients and allow the child to stir up his or her ice cream. Add more snow if needed (sometimes the mixture tastes too strong and more snow will remedy this).
That’s it! Ready to eat!
Please note that adding the other ingredients makes the snow more dense than it was to begin with, so you end up with less ice cream than you might think. 2 cups of snow makes about ½ cup of ice cream.
I use this recipe to teach kids the following concepts:
- Following mom’s directions in the kitchen
- Getting creative to make the recipe your own
- Mixing without spilling
- Why eating clean food is important (we usually discuss how germs can make us sick and that’s why we wash all the produce mom buys at the store)
Kabobs are so much fun to make with kids!
When kids make kabobs, they learn the following life skills:
- Early exposure to the concept of being careful because some kitchen tools can hurt you. This is a great pre-lesson before learning to cut with knives.
- Become familiar with ingredients. Kids learn to recognize and identify a variety of foods that they may cook with later on.
- More likely to try new foods
- Choosing between many food options
- Introduce the concept of cross contamination. Explain that we cook the meat before they touch it so that they don’t cross contaminate fruits and veggies with raw meat.
- How food changes when it is cooked. Example: raw bell peppers vs. cooked bell peppers.
There are so many options of yummy foods to put on a kabob- cheese, fruit, veggies, meat- so it’s easy to make a healthy kabob that your kids will actually enjoy eating.
Rather than following a strict recipe, I usually just set out all the food options (precooked if necessary) and let me kids go to town spearing their favorite foods. Here are my favorite kabob options.
- Meat cut into bite sized pieces
- Beef, chicken, or pork are the most common.
- I have also cut up lunch meat into squares and allowed my kids to put that on their kabobs.
- Another nontraditional option is Little Smokies or pieces of hot dogs.
- Be sure to cook the meat beforehand to avoid kids touching raw meat or cross contaminating other foods.
- Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries
- Melon pieces
- Honeydew, watermelon, or cantaloupe
- My kids enjoy when I give them options in various kinds of cheese- such as swiss, mozzarella, or cheddar.
- Nontraditional fruits- such as apples, orange slices, or chunks of pears- can also be added to kabobs. They are tasty and help kids eat a variety of foods.
- Any vegetable that you can get away with. I try any and all new veggies that I can possibly skewer on a kabob. This is a great way to trick my kids into trying new foods because they are so excited that they get to spear the food. I’ve done onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, squash, and cooked carrots.
When we make kabobs, I cut up all the ingredients, put each thing out on the table in a bowl, and allow the kids to choose what they want on their kabob. They love “spearing” the food onto a kabob stick.
Sometimes, my kids make crazy kabob creations that I wouldn’t necessarily want to try, but they are always very excited. They are more willing to try new things when we make kabobs.
4) Stir Fry or Fried Rice with Veggies
I use stir fry as my child’s first exposure to actual cooking! Here’s why stir fry is the perfect meal to cook when it’s your first time cooking:
- No measuring ingredients, which means there is no messing up! Stir fry always turns out great (unless you burn it). This is a great confidence-builder for kids who are just learning the skill of cooking!
- The child can make it their own. There’s no right or wrong answer to which veggies or meats go into stir fry. This is a great time for creativity!
- There’s little technical skill. Just stir to avoid burning!
- The heat doesn’t have to be turned up all the way. Keep the heat at medium. Even though it will take a little longer, it’s less likely for the child to get a burn.
- You can involve kids in a variety of ways.
- Kids love to add ingredients into the sauté pan as you go.
- If your child is old enough and responsible enough, you can let them help you cut the veggies or meat into bite sized pieces. If that’s not the case, you can do it before hand. No harm done!
- If your kids are old enough and responsible enough, they might enjoy stirring the pan while the veggies cook.
- If your child can handle it, this is a great recipe for him to try ALL on his own!
Ready for your recipe?
First of all, the list of ingredients is optional. Here are some of my favorite options of ingredients to include in stir fry. Pick and choose your favorites!
- Precooked Rice
- Soy Sauce or a similar yummy sauce (I’ve substituted General Tsao’s sauce, Orange Chicken Sauce, Kung Pao Sauce, Sweet and Sour Sauce, etc.)
- Bell Peppers
- Chicken, Beef, or another favorite meat
- Green Beans
- Bok Choy
- Water Chestnuts
- Sesame Seeds
Cut up all the ingredients into bite sized pieces. My kids love to “measure” to see if the veggies are bite sized by eating a few.
In a large frying pan, cook your meat first.
When your meat is cooked, add any veggies you would like. Stir to avoid burning the food until the veggies are cooked.
Add in your sauce.
You can serve stir fry by itself, over rice, or you can easily make it into fried rice by adding the rice into the sauté pan of veggies and cooking it with an egg.
5) Homemade Pizza
Who doesn’t love pizza? And making it yourself only adds to the fun!
Pizza teaches kids baking skills (which are VERY different from stove top cooking skills) such as:
- How leavening agents make dough rise,
- How the cooking process can transform dough into bread (there’s nothing like this when you’re making stir fry!)
- Measuring carefully to ensure that the dough turns out right,
- Rolling out dough,
- Taking your time!
- I like to buy premade pizza dough. This cuts down on the prep time and makes my life easier. Sorry kids, you’ll never be bakers. 🙂
Lucky for me, pizza still teaches some other things too. For example:
- Food presentation
- Spreading ingredients evenly throughout
- Using an oven- how to set the temperature, preheat the oven, turn on the light to check the food, etc.
- How to check to see if food is done baking (golden brown crust, not doughy)
Here’s your recipe!
If you’re cool, use the recipe found here (Courtesy of Sugar Spun Run) to make homemade dough.
If you’re like me, buy some premade dough and skip ahead. 🙂
Canned Spaghetti or Pizza Sauce
Whatever toppings sound yummy!
Spread the pizza dough into a large circle on a sheet tray. If you are making one large pizza, allow each child to decorate a portion of the pizza with toppings.
It can also be fun to make several smaller pizzas so that each child can have his or her own.
The kids can help spread sauce and cheese on the dough.
Offer the kids a variety of toppings to make their pizza unique. Allow them to get creative and make their pizza a piece of art.
Here are a few flavor combinations that can be tasty!
- Traditional (Marinara sauce, mozzarella, pepperonis, sausage, onion, bell peppers, olives, etc.)
- Barbeque (BBQ sauce, mozzarella, chicken, bacon, pineapple, onion, etc.)
- Alfredo (Alfredo Sauce, mozzarella, chicken, bacon, onion, tomato, etc.)
- Desert Pizza (Chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, marshmallow cream, crushed cookies, crushed Oreos, pie fillings, etc.)
Bake according to the directions on the dough package. Usually 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes.
6) Fruit Salad
Fruit Salad is a great way to let your kids practice using a knife by cutting soft fruit with a butter knife. The fruit pieces might not look pretty, but they will taste yummy. And your kid will learn a lot!
When I make fruit salad with my kids, I start by choosing which fruits they can cut themselves. Grapes, melons (after I remove the rind), and berries are easy for kids to cut with a butter knife.
I begin by removing the rind on any melons and then my kids cut the melon into pieces. They cut the grapes in half and strawberries into bite sized pieces.
As your child gets more skilled, allow him to experience more challenges- cutting more difficult fruits until he masters them all!
That’s it! If you want a little extra pizzazz, you can serve your fruit salad out of a hollowed out watermelon rind. My kids get excited about that.
7) Fruit Pizza
If fruit salad is too boring for you, put all those great knife skills to use on a fruit pizza!
- Teach your kids to use a knife, using the same techniques described above.
- Teach creativity and self-expression.
- Teach presentation.
- Expose kids to unique foods, like kiwi, that they might not try otherwise.
- Spread icing using a butter knife.
There are really yummy recipes out there for fruit pizza made entirely from scratch.
However, when I’m cooking with my kids, simple is better.
Premade Sugar Cookie Dough
Store Bought Cream Cheese Icing
Help the kids roll the dough out into a pizza shape. Bake the cookie according to the directions on the package.
Once the cookie is cool, top the cookie with store-bought cream cheese icing. The kids love to spread the icing over the pizza.
The children can help me cut soft fruits, such as strawberries or kiwi, to put on top of the icing. Let them get creative and make a beautiful design of fruit.
Some of my favorite toppings for fruit pizza include: kiwi, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, almonds, peaches, grapes, mandarin oranges, and banana.
Quesadillas are my favorite meal to teach kids to use cooking alternatives, like a griddle or a microwave. Of course, it’s excellent practice to learn to use a classic stove top as well!
BLACK+DECKER Family-Sized Electric Griddle with Warming Tray & Drip Tray, GD2051B
- Multiple cooking methods- griddle, stove top, or microwave! I often have conversations with my kids like this:
- How are various cooking methods alike?
- How are they different?
- Which one do you like best and why?
- What different circumstances might change your cooking method? (Example: If I’m in a hurry, a microwave is a great option!)
- If I’m teaching a child to cook who doesn’t want to sit and focus for very long, quesadillas can be a better option than stir fry.
- Active children can be more likely to be burned if they are fidgeting or playing around when they are supposed to be cooking. My favorite thing about quesadillas is that you can cook them over a low heat, reducing the risk that your child might burn themselves.
Quesadillas are simple, quick, and easy- which allows the kids to focus on the new skill of using a burner or griddle rather than on the preparation.
Any desired add ins (Meat, veggies, salsa, etc.)
I begin by spraying a frying pan with a nonstick spray.
Before I turn the burner on, I place the tortilla in the pan and add cheese on one half. Fold the tortilla over to cover the cheese.
Then, turn the burner on low. Allow your child to flip the quesadilla when the first side is golden brown.
He/she can practice watching the food to avoid burning it, flipping the quesadilla, and using the stove top safely.
9) Cream Cheese Fruit Dip
I use this recipe to teach kids how to use a hand mixer in the kitchen- a very useful tool for lots of recipes.
Click the image below!
Here’s what you need:
2- 8oz packages of Cream Cheese
1 cup Powdered Sugar
Any fruit to dip, cut into bite sized pieces
The child begins by beating the cream cheese with the hand mixer for 3-5 minutes. It takes a long time to mix the cream cheese until there are no more lumps (more practice for the child!). You want your cream cheese to be smooth and creamy.
Add in the powdered sugar. Use the hand mixer to mix thoroughly.
Dip a variety of fruits in the fruit dip, including apples, bananas, grapes, berries, etc.
This recipe teaches kids to use the hand mixer without making a mess. I suggest mixing the cream cheese in a large mixing bowl to catch some of the mess.
If the child holds the hand mixer at an angle rather than straight up and down, the mixer will spray bits of cream cheese. Since you must mix the cream cheese for several minutes, the child gets lots of practice.
Do you have any favorite recipes to cook with your kids? Share them in the comments below so that we can all enjoy them!