Cooking with kids can benefit little ones and parents alike!
I recently learned that September 13 is National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day (I swear, there’s a day for everything!). I love to bake and cook and want to pass that love onto my kids, but the control freak in me has historically prohibited them from the kitchen or relegated them to the role of “observer.”
Maybe it was the lack of other activities during the initial coronavirus lockdown (or our sudden inexplicable abundance of bananas), but I’ve loosened up a bit and let my kids into the kitchen with me. And so far, I haven’t regretted it!
It’s probably not a good idea to just turn your five-year-old loose in your kitchen unsupervised, but you can definitely ease into it by allowing them to “help” you in the kitchen with age-appropriate tasks, such as:
- Washing fruits and vegetables
- Stirring batter
- “Dumping” ingredients
- And of course, licking the spoon!
Once they have better motor skills and judgment, they can graduate to more advanced skills (still under close supervision), such as:
- Measuring ingredients
- Cracking the eggs (just be prepared to fish out the pieces of shell)
- Dicing/slicing soft fruits and vegetables (think strawberries)
- Rolling out dough
My kids also used the power of television to convince me that they were, in fact, old enough to help in the kitchen. We love to watch Chopped Junior and the Kids Baking Championship, and they astutely pointed out that they were nearing the same age as the contestants we were cheering on together. Touché.
And if you need further convincing, there are many benefits to getting them into the kitchen at an early age:
- They are more likely to try (and hopefully eat) foods that they are involved in preparing.
- You can sneak in some education (math is an obvious one with all the measuring, but reading the recipe counts, and we’ve also discussed food chains and the reactions that happen when we combine certain ingredients).
- They gain self-confidence by mastering a new skill–a LIFE skill, in fact, so win-win!
Okay, so now that I’ve convinced you to allow your kids in the kitchen, let me share a few of our favorite recipes to tackle together:
Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Banana Bread (Simply Recipes)
This is a crowd-pleaser, even if you aren’t a fan of traditional banana bread recipes (like me), and it was perfect during those early COVID days when we seemed to be hoarding bananas.
**Pro-tip: This recipe can handle a heaping full cup of chocolate chips, so the more, the merrier, but you will need to increase the baking time 10 extra minutes or so to get it all the way “done” in the middle.**
Homemade Pizza Dough (courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction)
Once yeast was more widely available in the baking aisle (can someone please explain all the quirky COVID supply chain mishaps?), we occasionally traded in our Friday night Domino’s staple for the homemade version. We all agreed that those pre-made crusts you find in the aisle with the tomato sauce, while convenient, couldn’t compare to the real yeasty thing.
**Pro-tip: The dough needs to rise for at least an hour, if not a half hour more, so this takes a little more advanced planning than “last minute”, but once the dough has risen, it comes together quickly.**
Cowboy Cookies (Laura Bush’s Cowboy Cookies)
These cookies have a little bit of everything–chocolate chips, oatmeal, pecans, coconut–and can be tailored to avoid allergies or to suit picky eaters. They also involve a lot of “dumping”, so perfect for the smallest of bakers.
**Pro tip: I half the recipe, because otherwise, it makes a ton!**
**Bonus pro tip: If you have more than one helper, get creative in the final stage (otherwise known as “licking the spoon” — I’ve got three, so we make sure someone gets the spoon, someone gets the bowl, and someone gets the beater.**