Cooking at Home

Rebecca Jacobs
May 20, 2011

Cooking with kids takes a little extra patience, time, and cleanup, but it's worth the extra. When kids cook, they're more likely to eat -- even veggies. They gain confidence and learn skills they'll use forever, and they get math and language practice. Plus, cooking is just plain fun for kids. With these tips and suggestions for cookbooks, recipes, and kid-friendly tools, you'll be on your way to making meals and memories together.

When kids are in the kitchen, opportunities grow as they do:

Infants and toddlers can bang pots and lids with wooden spoons, stack unbreakable bowls and containers, stir play food in a pretend soup, pour water in and out of measuring cups, and dig into a sensory tub filled with dried beans and pasta.

Preschoolers can stir ingredients, wash fruits and veggies, tear lettuce, squeeze lemons, gather and return items from the pantry and refrigerator, layer lasagnas, decorate cakes and cupcakes with their favorite small treats, and use food coloring to learn about colors.

Elementary-age children can help plan meals, gather utensils, crack, separate, and whisk eggs, measure ingredients, use the mixer, set the timer, frost a cake, toss a salad, assemble burgers and sandwiches, set the table, and help wash dishes or load the dishwasher.

Cookbooks made for kids speak to them but have recipes the whole family will like:

Betty Crocker Kids Cook! 

This cookbook tells kids how to be safe in the kitchen, defines cooking and baking terms, and explains the new food pyramid. It has sections for breakfast, lunch, snack and drink, side dish, dinner, and dessert recipes. Cartoon kids illustrate each page in a spirited style that appeals to real kids, and there are real pictures of each dish. The cookbook is packed with favorites like pancakes and macaroni and cheese, and soon-to-be favorites like Burrito BLT Wraps.

Paula Deen's My First Cookbook

This cookbook starts with safety advice and a glossary of cooking vocabulary, then goes further to explain how to measure, how to set a table, and how to show table manners. It offers recipes for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks, plus recipes for birthday party treats, cooking for mom and dad, holiday treats, special drinks, and crafts. It doesn't include real food photos, but the colorful illustrations make the instructions extra clear.

Everyone will enjoy the results of these recipes from Paula Deen's My First Cookbook:

Campfire Stew

What you'll need:

Heavy-duty aluminum foil
Dry measuring cup (1/2 cup)
Vegetable peeler
Medium, sharp knife
Cutting board
Cookie sheet
Oven mitts or hot pads
1/2 cup ground beef
1 large carrot, washed
1 small white potato, washed
Salt and pepper

What you'll do:

1. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Tear off a piece of foil about 12 inches long. Crumble the beef evenly in the center of the foil.

2. Pare the carrot and potato with the vegetable peeler. Ask your adult helper to chop the carrot into 1-inch pieces and cut the potato into eight pieces. Pile the carrots and potatoes on top of the ground beef. Give the whole thing 4 good shakes of salt and 1 shake of pepper.

3. Take the corners of the foil and bring them together. Twist the top and make sure that there are no holes that the juices can escape from.

4. Put the foil package on the cookie sheet. Let your adult helper put it in the oven for you. Bake the stew for 1 hour.

5. Ask your adult helper to take the cookie sheet out of the oven with the oven mitts or hot pads. Let it sit on the counter for about 10 minutes before you unwrap the foil. Steam will come out, so be careful!

Serves 1

Yogurt Fruit Smoothies

What you'll need:

Blender
Measuring spoons
Liquid measuring cup
3 drinking glasses
Any soft fruit - 1 banana, one 15-ounce can of canned pears, one 15-ounce can of canned peaches, 1/2 cup blueberries (washed), or 1/2  cup strawberries (washed; canned fruit in juice does not have to be drained; you want to keep all of the yummy flavor)
One 8-ounce carton of vanilla yogurt
1 tablespoon honey
2 cups ice cubes

What you'll do:

1. Put the fruit, yogurt, honey, and ice in the blender. Put the lid on. Blend it until it is smooth. Be prepared for a loud noise!

2. Pour it into glasses.

Makes three 6-ounce servings

Kid-friendly cooking tools add to the experience:

To help keep their clothes clean and look the part, kids will want to wear an apron when they cook. Find a selection of cute children's aprons on Etsy. Consider using a low kitchen drawer or plastic storage bin to hold your child's personal set of kitchen equipment. Their tools could include an apron and oven mitts, measuring cups and spoons, a butter knife and small cutting board, a wooden spoon, a rubber spatula, a wire whisk, a vegetable peeler, a potato masher, tongs and safety scissors.

From the Parents

  • Parent # 1

    A way I make do with what I have in my refrigerator and pantry is by logging on to supercook.com. You enter all the ingredients, spices, etc you have on hand and whala, it tells you what you can make out of your favorite online recipe websites. This is so helpful when you're standing in front of the refrigerator/freezer asking yourself what you should make for dinner without having to run out to the store.

    over a year ago

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