3 Kid-friendly recipes and cooking tools to get kids in the kitchen
This is a guest post all about cooking with kids is written by Katie Shepherd, RD from Food Explorers. This post contains affiliate links.
Messy. Time-consuming. Stressful. These are all descriptions you might have thought to yourself when you considered having your kids help you in the kitchen. What’s the point? They slow you down, make mistakes, and make a huge mess.
Is it even worth getting kids in the kitchen?
We’re here to shout from the rooftops that it is worth it! At Food Explorers, our mission is to get as many kids in the kitchen as possible. Whether in our classes or cooking at home with their parents.
We do it every day. Getting kids in the kitchen is indeed messy, time-consuming and *slightly* stressful. But the benefits of teaching kids cooking skills outweigh the negatives. Let’s dive into this further:
Benefits of cooking with kids
Exposure: Did you know that involving each sense in the cooking process is more likely to help a child try a new food? We mean taking it all the way back to the food prep. Having them help wash the lettuce, touch the lettuce, chop it, smell it, and even be near the lettuce.
This exposure can slowly but surely help transform a picky eater into a more confident and accepting eater. It can take 10-20 exposures to a new food before a child even considers putting that food in their mouth. And all of these steps count as exposure.
Our Food Explorers classes focus on the child experiencing the food through preparation and cooking. Rather than forcing, bribing, or even gently encouraging them to try anything new. Instead, we let the magic of cooking take over. And 9 out of 10 times, we find that kids will try a food even if they were hesitant at the beginning of class.
Of course, by getting your kids in the kitchen, your child is gaining not only learning one of life’s basic skills. But it’s also practicing reading and many math skills too! And spending time together can be tough to achieve around today’s busy schedule and the draw of technology.
What about the mess when cooking with kids?
Let’s talk mess. We get it. We’ve had kids drop entire bowls of food, spill milk, spread flour around the table, disaster egg cracking, splatter while mixing, the whole nine yards. The problem is that kids feel your stress, which can take away from their experience (and your own).
Our trick is to pretend that nothing phases us, even when we may be stressing on the inside watching the measuring cup overflow, the egg drop on the floor, and the batter go everywhere with the electric mixer. If we constantly correct them without them learning how to fix their mistakes, how will they improve?
Stay calm when the measuring cup overflows, and try this instead: “Great job measuring the flour! It looks like it overflowed a bit, so next time how about we try it like this?” Model techniques and stay calm, even through the messiest of situations!
Choosing a recipe for kids
There are infinite recipes, so how on earth do you choose one to make with your kids? Here are the things we look for:
What skills can be introduced?
Is there measuring? Mixing? Do eggs need to be cracked? Will a knife be used? What can be made from scratch? Will we use any special equipment like a rolling pin or electric mixer?
Is the recipe realistic?
We know that lofty goals and aspirations can lead to disappointment in the kitchen, especially if this is your first time cooking with your child. So while making pastry from scratch or a 3-tier cake may be in your future one day, start slow and simple the first few times.
Our three favorite kid-friendly recipes
Caprese Macaroni & Cheese
This caprese macaroni and cheese adds a fun and unique twist to traditional macaroni and cheese recipes. With the addition of cherry tomatoes, roma tomatoes and breadcrumbs, each bite is cheesy, fresh, and crisp.
- Skills: grating cheese, measuring ingredients, learning about a stovetop, cooking pasta and setting a timer.
Strawberry Shortcake Parfaits
These strawberry shortcake parfaits are beautiful, fun and tasty. And are a great recipe for teaching patience – you must wait for all the layers to be complete before eating. You can make these super easy by purchasing pre-made cakes or muffins.
- Skills: washing and drying fruit, knife skills (and exposure to a fruit), making whipped cream from scratch using an electric mixer, and layering into a cup.
Veggie tots can be made with various veggies, but they’re particularly delicious with broccoli and cheddar cheese. You could also try zucchini, carrot or sweet potato.
You’ll notice that some of the skills we’ve listed for these recipes are small but not insignificant. How do we bake without preheating the oven? How do we follow a recipe without learning how to use measuring cups? So much to learn!
Kid-Friendly Cooking Equipment
There is a vast array of kid-friendly cooking equipment out there, and while some are extremely useful, don’t be afraid to expose your child (with supervision) to the “real deal” in your kitchen when you feel appropriate.
Some of our favourite gadgets and kid-friendly pieces of cooking equipment that we use every day in our classes are:
These are a must if you have a young chef or chef without experience with a knife. Pro tip: these knives are NOT sharp, but kids can learn how to properly hold a knife and the actions of cutting and chopping before moving onto a bigger, sharper knife.
Check out Foost Knives, using the code FirstStepNurtrition10 to save 10% (Affiliate link)
Plastic/non-slip cutting boards:
It can be frustrating for kids when they’re concentrating on cutting, and their cutting board keeps sliding away. Non-slip cutting boards (affiliate link) are great because they stay in place and are generally quite large, so kids have lots of surface area to cut and chop.
If you have a tiny chef who needs help stepping up to the counter, kitchen towers are a great way to keep them safe and raise them to counter height. Feel free to use these even when they aren’t “supposed” to be helping you. Bring them to the kitchen to watch you prepare a meal, and you might be surprised at the ingredients they want to try before you start cooking.
Our specialty is having fun in the kitchen while providing a safe and welcoming environment for kids to feel comfortable trying new things and learning new skills. We know this is achievable in your own kitchen, too!
It may be a messy disaster the first time, but the memories you’ll make and the life skills and lessons your child will learn will be invaluable. You make all their meals now, but one day they will be responsible for feeding themselves and maybe even feeding others. Think of the fantastic meals you can help them create by teaching them such helpful and life-changing skills.
Katie took the plunge into entrepreneurship in 2018, and what started off as a one woman show, teaching kids cooking classes around the state of Connecticut, has grown into a 10 instructor strong business, teaching hundreds of classes a year. Food Explorers classes provide kids with skills to create delicious foods, with a focus on food neutrality and fostering a healthy relationship with food in the kitchen. Check out Food Explorers on Instagram and Facebook.