Getting kids involved with food preparation has tons of benefits. Cooking with kids helps them practice math, learn to love healthy foods and develop self-care skills that they’ll need someday. Plus, it gives you all a chance to spend quality time together.
Choosing recipes that will work for you and your kids depends on their ages, your kitchen setup and your family’s dietary restrictions. These simple recipe ideas are a good starting point.
Technically, of course, there’s no cooking involved with making smoothies. That’s what makes this is a perfect first project for little ones or kids who are new to the kitchen. Each child can choose and prep the ingredients for his or her smoothie. Offer a few base ingredients, like plain Greek yogurt or juice, plus a bunch of add-ins. Bananas, berries, peaches, mango, nut butters, kale, spinach, mint, tofu, avocado, milk, cinnamon and cocoa powder are all potential options.
Have kids do things like wash and cut fruit, measure ingredients and add them to the blender. Start with equal parts of your base ingredient and add-ins, add a handful of ice and make adjustments from there. An adult may need to operate the blender itself. Let kids taste the smoothie after each addition of a new ingredient. They’ll learn a lot about flavors and balance.
Making pizza dough from scratch takes hours from start to finish. If the family schedule allows, do it anyway. Homemade dough is simple to assemble and most yeast packages have a specific recipe. Kids can measure dry ingredients, mix yeast with water, then stir and knead the dough.
Of course, cooking with kids takes enough time as it is. If you want, opt for a store-bought crust, or use naan or packaged bread dough. Kids can make their own tomato sauce using canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, a little tomato paste and seasonings including oregano, salt and pepper. Simmer the sauce for at least 20 minutes or until the onions are soft.
Finally, let kids prepare their own pizzas. They can roll the dough, spread the sauce, sprinkle on shredded cheese and pick their own vegetable toppings. In most ovens, cooking a pizza until the cheese is browned only takes about 15 minutes.
Easy Grilled Skewers
Cooking with kids shouldn’t take hours or they’ll get restless. Having them make their own kebabs or skewers is a quick way to get kids fed. They can play with their food, and each kid can customize a meal that he or she will actually eat.
Cut chicken or another meat into ice-cube-size chunks. Cut hearty vegetables like peppers, onions, zucchini and sweet potato into chunks of the same size. Whole cherry tomatoes work too. Let kids season the ingredients. Just salt and pepper might be enough for one kid’s tastes; another might prefer to rub meat with a spicy marinade or a sticky soy sauce glaze.
Next, let kids push the pieces onto simple wooden or metal skewers. You or another adult should handle the actual grilling, unless you’re cooking with an older teen. Simply cook the skewers on the grill or grill pan, turning each skewer every few minutes to cook all sides. Once the meat is cooked to the safe level of doneness, they’re ready to eat.
Kids can complete a meal of grilled skewers by mixing up simple dipping sauces. Try homemade ranch made with Greek yogurt, a sweet-and-sour honey lime dip or a smooth cheese sauce with melted cheddar.
Alternately, use this prep idea to entice kids to eat more fruit. Have them push chunks of pineapple, peach and banana chunks onto their skewers. Grill them until they’re lightly browned and have kids make a dipping sauce of yogurt, orange juice and a pinch of brown sugar.