Learn how to teach kids to cook at different developmental stages. Plus get 3 simple recipes for toddlers, preschoolers & older kids.
Teaching your kids how to cook has so many benefits…but it's not always easy.
Maybe you imagined including your little one in cooking dinner every night but it's simply too rushed or you're too tired.
Perhaps you imagined cooking and eating healthy meals with your child but they're in a picky stage and don't seem interested in many foods.
Or maybe you believe in the benefits of cooking alongside your child but you don't like to cook yourself so it's hard to get motivated.
Regardless of the specific challenges you're facing with teaching your child to cook, I'm sharing tips for cooking with kids of all different ages today. I'm also sharing 3 healthy recipes that kids can learn to make. The recipes are courtesy of my friend Katie at Kids Cook Real Food. She's an expert on teaching kids of all ages kitchen skills. You should definitely check out her site for more tips on teaching your little ones to cook. She even offers a free knife skills class for our Prep Dish community!
How to Teach Kids to Cook – Tips to Keep in Mind
Think Beyond Desserts
When people think about cooking with kids, they often think of desserts. Baking a cake with your child, making cookies together, these are common experiences that come to mind.
There is nothing wrong with that! Making a fun dessert together can be a great bonding experience, especially when family traditions are involved like with holiday baking.
The key is to avoid getting stuck in a rut of only making desserts with your child. You want your child to learn a variety of kitchen skills, not just baking. Plus, they'll likely have a great time helping you make salad dressing even if salad isn't their favorite. And they'll be more likely to try a healthy dish if they helped to prepare it!
A big stumbling block for many parents in teaching kids to cook is timing. If you try to involve your child in making dinner when you're both exhausted and in a hurry, it likely won't be a good experience for either of you.
Instead, choose a time when you're not in a hurry and, ideally, when someone else can help care for any younger siblings. That way you can really take your time in showing your child how to use a garlic press or how to peel carrots instead of rushing through it.
You might start a tradition of making Sunday dinner together or including your child in just the first part of your weekly meal prep when you wash and chop your produce.
Include Them in Clean-up
The last thing you want is to be left with a giant mess to clean up each time you invite your kid into the kitchen.
Let's face it though, kids are messy. And your child won't have a good experience if you're hovering over them, stressed about the mess the whole time. Instead, make sure to show them how to clean up as you go.
Demonstrate how to wipe up a spill, how to sweep the floor with a child-sized broom and where to place scraps as they learn to peel and chop veggies. Young kids in particular love the independence and pride that come with learning these new skills!
Skills Above Recipes
I'm sharing 3 recipes that are perfect for making with your kids below. But here's the thing: helping your child build skills is so much more important than teaching them how to make a specific recipe.
If your child knows how to chop vegetables, they can help you any day they feel like it. If they know how to measure, they can choose a simple recipe from a baking cookbook and make it. This is a totally different level of independence than just knowing how to make one specific recipe.
Katie talks more about this here.
What's Kids Cook Real Food?
Many families love the idea of teaching their kids real kitchen skills, but don't know where to begin. Trying to involve young children in the kitchen in a meaningful way can feel overwhelming. How do you know when they're ready to use a knife? What skill should you teach them first?
That's where Kids Cook Real Food comes in!
Kids Cook Real Food is a video-based kids cooking class. The creator, Katie Kimball, offers the class for three different levels ranging from 2 years old to teenagers. The videos teach kids key kitchen skills like spreading, measuring, cracking eggs, following recipes, how to safely use a sharp knife and how to cook eggs.
And you know I love this part: all of the recipes in the classes are healthy and real food-based!
If you're looking for something fun to fill these summer days, Katie is also offering a FREE virtual kids' cooking camp! It was a big hit last year and I'm super excited to be participating as a guest chef this year. We'll be focusing on helping kids learn to make their own healthy snacks. The camp runs from June 21-25…I hope you'll join us!
Learn more about the free Kids Cook Real Food Summer Camp here!
3 Healthy Recipes for Kids to Make
Toddlers – Popsicles
I have a lot of experience cooking with the littlest sous chefs as the oldest of my two kids is 2 1/2 right now.
There's a surprising number of recipes you can include toddlers in! I try to stick to things where exact measurements aren't important, as they tend to spill when dumping or stirring ingredients.
Popsicles are perfect! They are quick to make, delicious and you can make them totally sugar-free with just fruit.
Check out Katie's recipes here or include your toddler next time you make my Watermelon Mojito popsicles or Homemade Fudgesicles.
Preschoolers – Chocolate Filled Frozen Banana Bites
If you want to serve a dessert you actually feel good about your child eating, these chocolate-filled banana bites are perfect! They're fruit-based with just a hint of chocolate.
This recipe involves multiple steps, almost all of which your preschooler can do on their own. In the process, your child not only learns how to make something delicious, they'll practice fine motor skills in several different ways by slicing the banana, using a straw to make the holes and carefully filling the holes with chocolate.
This is one I'm looking forward to making with my own kids!
Older Kids – Sheet Pan Dinner
While I love making treats with kids, I'm also a huge proponent of teaching them how to make real meals, and so is Katie!
Her sheet pan dinner recipe, designed for kids, is perfect. It's simple and super flexible. Once your child learns the technique, they'll be able to easily sub their favorite protein and veggies and experiment with different spices to make it their own.
If you want to teach your kids to cook, don't forget to sign up for Katie's FREE virtual kids' cooking camp!
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