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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cooking with Kids!

Here’s a snapshot of dinner preparation hour in the Maynard home: Mom trying to get food on the table as quickly as possible, Cate & Anna playing in their room.  Rarely do I figure how to get Cate involved in the food prep process (Anna is still too young).  I know Cate loves helping me cook, but I’m usually in a rush and not creative enough to get her involved.

Last night we had english muffin pizzas. She helped me “chop” (with a butter knife, which she THINKS is a sharp knife) mushrooms for the pizza and strawberries for the salad.  She helped put toppings on the pizzas and adding ingredients to the salad.  I could tell she was in HEAVEN, so happy to be at my side, cooking like her mom.

It’s pretty easy to get kids involved with baking since there is lots of dumping and stirring.  But what about other types of cooking, especially at dinnertime?  I would love to get Cate more involved with cooking, beyond cookies and english muffin pizzas.

So, a call to all the parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/friends-to-little-ones out there: Please share your fantastic, safe, and fun “Cooking wth Kids” tips!


  1. 1

    I want to see more comments too–my kids are 5 1/2 and 3 and they love to ‘help’, but usually at this age it’s just easier and safer for them to stay out of the kitchen. I do try and involve them with choosing meals, deciding what goes in salad, which fruits to eat, etc. Last week they helped me make a fruit salad, since most fruits are easy to cut with a butter knife. I also get them involved with setting the table and cleaning up the table too. I’d love to hear more ideas from people–I’ve been cooking on my own since I was about 8 so I’m eager to get my kids involved too.

  2. 2

    My 3-year-old loves to help at the stove, which I know is probably not a good recommendation for many kids her age. She stands on a stepstool and stirs things in a pan very carefully. I don’t let her stand there when I’m not looking over her shoulder, but she has proved to be surprisingly careful and mature about the hot stove and hot pan.

    She also likes to use a cookie cutter to cut shapes out of sandwiches, sprinkle salt, grind pepper, and feed her brother by putting bits of food onto his highchair tray. He will eat ANYTHING that she gives him so it’s a good way to encourage adventurous eating!

  3. 3

    My little one is 2 (almost 3) and has been helping me cook as long as he could stand. He drains cans for me and dumps them into whatever I am cooking, he washes veggies for me, runs the food processor or blender as I’m standing nearby, he uses the immersion blender with my help, he hands me dishes so that I can put them away, he cuts with the butter knife, he stirs, mashes bananas or potatoes, scoops out avacados, closes and opens the microwave/refrigerator doors, sweeps the floor with a tiny little broom and dustpan, he throws things in the trash or recycling for me, etc.

  4. 4
    Nicole Beckstrand

    Ella is my little sous chef. I let her fetch ingredients for me, gather utensils (like measuring cups) and assist in measuring/dumping. She also loves to stir/mix stuff. She cleans up after mommy’s messes, too with sponges/wipes and the broom. She stands on this little step ladder I have in the kitchen and wears her little apron. Too cute!

  5. My son (4 yrs) is really good at grating soft mozzarella. It helps if you spray PAM on the box grater first so it doesn’t get as gunked up. Is gunked a word? He also helps me chop with a butter knife like your daughter does.

    Last summer when our herbs were growing strong and we used them often I would have him go out to pick some of what I needed. He quickly learned: rosemary, basil, oregano, thyme, and parsley.

  6. 6
    Sara B

    Those are not the hands and arms of a baby any more. So sad.

  7. 7

    I believe it takes more patience than creativity to cook with and involve children in the process – kudos to all of you… are all better at this than I was.

  8. 8

    I usually end up asking my son if he wants to help me cook on weekends. Weeknights are just so busy and I am always rushing to get dinner ready.
    Austin likes to measure, dump, and stir. After reading some of the posts, I may start letting him use a butter knife to cut things too…I think he’ll get a kick out of it.
    This is also a way I get him to eat some things he may not otherwise try.

  9. I do a lot of stuff that Jeannine and Nicole suggested. My little guy LOVES running the blender, cuisinart, hand mixer, etc. If I cut stuff enough ahead of time I’ll let him put the veggies in the pot or slow cooker, pour the water in, etc. and then I’ll carry it over to the stove. If it is something like pasta, he enjoys turning the crank on the pasta maker. Once every couple months I make a batch of blended garlic with butter and olive oil(use a lot of oil and butter so the garlic doesn’t turn green), and so that way I have a bunch of crushed garlic on hand to throw in with whatever I’m making. I peel it, he throws it into the container, and once it is full, we blend it. He also gets to roll out his own pizza dough, drop cookies onto the baking sheet, fill his own muffin cups, flip over bread when it is soaking in french toast batter.

    Once he’s a bit older I’ll have him try shredding lettuce leaves again. Oh and when he was about 9 mos old I had him crushing cereal and other things in a bag for casseroles.

  10. 10

    I babysit a family with two girls (ages 5 & 10). We try and make dinner together as much as possible when I watch them. Our favorites things to make are:

    -taco salads with homemade tortilla bowls. The girls love to crumple up the foil into baseball sized balls for the tortillas to bake on. Plus the girls spread a little oil on both sides of the tortilla and sprinkle with salt and pepper on them. They love the fact they are making their own personal bowls. We put them into the oven and bake them for about 5 mins, watch them carefully. While the “bowls” are cooling, we make the rest of the salad. The girls help me shred the lettuce and stir the meat (they add the taco seasonings) and place the ingredients into their bowls. Add any toppings of your choice (I usually do cheese, beans, black olives, meat, lettuce, tomatoes & sour cream).

    -No Bake lasagna. The girls like to help me layer the pasta with the cheese and meat and dump the pasta sauce on top.

  11. I’ve been feeling guilty for a while not involving my lil 3 yr olds in the cooking process. they both love to help when i let them, but i really need to find the patience to bring down the rate at which i normally cook the meal. If i go into very ‘zen’ mode, i can handle it & it’s fun for them. But i need to allot the time for it:) thanks for the inspiration people!

  12. 12

    I love your entry on cooking with kids! My kids do a lot in the kitchen from chopping herbs, to mincing garlic, making quesadillas, smoothies, omelets in more. My daughter has been on television twice with me making omelets and waffles, and her omelets actually turn out better than mine! Keep up your great work. Alison

  13. 13

    Hi, everyone, I was thrilled to see this post because I just started a website devoted to this very subject — cooking with (and for) kids. I hope you’ll check it out!

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