Have you ever had a kid who asked “Can I help?” when you were preparing a meal?
There’s all kinds of ways that kids can get involved in the kitchen!
Cooking is a great life skill and everyone should know some of the basics behind preparing a well-balanced meal.
Young children can learn how to choose nutritious foods, prepare snacks, and mix & measure ingredients.
Older kids will enjoy mastering the skills of whisking, creating fun desserts and learning to crack an egg (warning: buy more than you think you’ll need).
I can remember the first time I prepared dinner for my family. I was about 12 years old and made pasta — it was horrible! I let it boil too long and it became a big, gummy mess! But I learned what not to do the next time.
I enjoy having the kids help out in the kitchen. And yes, cooking can be messy sometimes – but it doesn’t have to be a complete mess.
Teaching kids to ‘clean as they go’ is a great tip. And if you really don’t want to deal with a mess, you can always choose recipes that are easy to prepare.
Another big plus for getting kids involved in the kitchen: Studies show that kids who cook are more likely to try new foods and make healthier choices.
Math in the Kitchen
Cooking is a natural introduction to math for kids. Measuring items leads to a discussion of fractions, volume (for liquid measures), geometry and temperature. These are all great hands-on ways to practice numbers and math skills.
Begin by allowing kids to use measuring cups and experiement with the measures. Get two bowls and have the kids measure out 1 cup of sugar in one bowl, and 2 half cups of sugar in the second bowl. Point out that this the two bowls are equal, you just measured the sugar in two different ways.
Older kids will enjoy working with measuring spoons. Using a measuring cup and set of measuring spoons, have them measure out a liquid, such as water. How many tablespoons are in a 1/4 cup? Teach them how to read the difference between a teaspoon (tsp.) and a tablespoon (tbsp.).
You can also experiment a little with temperature in cooking. How long does it take water to boil if it’s set to high on the stove vs. set to a medium heat. (sneaking a little science in here too — but we’ll save that for another day).
And to practice some geometry, try using cinnamon toast! (You can use any type of toast but cinnamon is my favorite.) Make a few pieces of toast and have the kids cut them into shapes. How many squares can you get from one piece of toast? How many triangles?
Pizza is another great geometric food – it begins as a circle and is cut into triangles. Talk to younger children as you cut the pizza – first, you’ll have a semi-circle. Then you can cut triangles – as many as you like really! Older kids can even measure the circumference of the pizza.
One of my favorite things about cooking with kids is the fun cookbooks that are available! Having a cookbook is great for a few reasons:
• Cookbooks give kids ideas on what they’d like to cook.
• They will introduce kids to new recipes and types of foods (I mean, come on – some of those pictures in the cookbook look amazingly appetizing! Even if they do include a veggie.)
• Most cookbooks offer a section on measurements and how-to skills.
• Cookbooks gets kids to read! (love anything that gets kids to read).
Here are a few of our Favorite Kids’ Cookbooks:
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Better Homes and Gardens Junior Cookbook
Why We Love It: The Better Homes and Gardens New Junior CookBook is a classic! I actually have the same book that my mom gave me as a child (yep, it’s that old!).
I really enjoy the older versions of this cookbook as there are some great popular recipes included from past decades – mine includes strawberry-pineapple freeze and jelly muffins. My daughter enjoys reading some of the funny old recipes too.
The newer versions of the book have more up-to-date recipes along with better nutritional guidelines. It also includes a great ‘Cooking Basics’ section with menu planning, kitchen safety, how to read labels and an intro to kitchen skills.
Disney’s The Magic Kitchen Cookbook
Why We Love It: Who wouldn’t want to cook with Disney characters?!!
Actually, one of my favorite parts of The Disney The Magic Kitchen Cookbook and the The Disney Princess Cookbook are the ‘Cooking Basics’ section which includes tips for measuring, cooking safety, fun nutrition info and a guide to kitchen tools.
The recipes are all very healthy (another big plus!) and include ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and desserts. And there are photos of your favorite characters on each page — very colorful! My kids have loved to use this book on the days we’ll be watching a Disney flick!
Each page includes a recipe and favorite Disney character (some are themed and others aren’t) and there are fun puzzles included throughout the book. Honestly, the theming in the princess book is wonderful — make hummus with Jasmine, a sea foam smoothie with Ariel and baguettes with Belle.
Nutritional information is included with each recipe too. The one downside for these book are that the directions are more detailed and would need to be read by an adult or older child (but if you’re cooking together, there’s lots of fun things for kids to look at in the book).
The Berenstain Bears Cook-It! Breakfast for Mama
Why We Love It: Part story, part cookbook – The Berenstain Bears Cook-It! is a great intro to the kitchen for young children. First, it includes the well-known (and well-loved) Berenstain Bears which makes it very attractive to younger kids.
Second, it has some wonderful step-by-step directions for kids to make breakfast for mom (or anyone they love)! The books are very simple with only a few recipes but the perfect starter cookbook for young preschoolers.
DK Mom and Me Cookbook: Have Fun in the Kitchen!
Why We Love It: Well, it’s a DK book, so GREAT PHOTOS are at the top of the list. Each recipe in the Mom and Me Cookbook has wonderful pictures with the step-by-step instructions so kids have a great visual as they prepare the food. Another plus is the photos show other kids cooking which I just love!
They also have some very family-friendly and fun recipes included — potato mice, avocado frog dip and traffic light freezer pops! Many recipes also have less than 8 ingredients which is a bonus since kids can get impatient with having lots of steps to a recipe.
American Girls Kirsten’s Cook Book
Why We Love It: Themed cookbooks are always a fun way to introduce cooking to your kids. The American Girl series has a cookbook for many of their popular books. Kirsten’s Cookbook: A Peek at Dining in the Past with Meals You Can Cook Today introduces swedish dishes that were popular in the 1850s such as homemade butter and rye bread.
One of the higlights of these cookbooks are the ‘party planning’ tips that are given based on customs of the time period. Kids will find it interesting to learn how food, meals and social customs have changed over time.
Other titles in the series include:
Julie Cooking Studio (American Girl) — cooking in the 1970’s
Felicity’s Cookbook (American Girls Collection) — full menus & recipes for planning 18th century parties
Addy’s Cook Book (American Girls Pastimes Collection) — Southern-style cooking from the Civil War era
Molly’s Cookbook (American Girls Pastimes) — recipes popular durning WWII with lots of interesting historic facts!
Do you enjoy cooking with the kids?
If you have a favorite cookbook, be sure to leave us a note in the comments!
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