Top 5 Tips for Cooking With Kids

Are you tired of making different meals for each of your kids in order to cater to picky eaters? Well, you are not alone! One solution to battling finicky taste buds in your home is to get kids more involved with cooking in the first place. That’s a picture of my own two sons, Nicholas and Christian, cooking with me when they were small. Oh, how they loved it! And it was so good for them, as now they both have adventurous, healthful palates. Cooking with kids can be a great way to get your kids to add new foods to their diet. Research shows that kids are more likely to try healthier foods (like fruits and veggies) if they are involved in the process. Another great benefit from cooking with kids is that you’ll be in control of what goes into their food—a contrast from the standard sugar, fat, and salt added to junk foods and fast foods. It is also a wonderful opportunity to teach your children where food comes from, beyond the plastic take-out boxes, and cereal packages. You can prepare your kids to be more self-sustaining as they grow older, so they can be equipped to prepare their own favorite, healthy recipes when they’re off on their own. And cooking with your kids takes both you and your child away from technology, such as the iPad or computer games, to focus on talking to each other. You can create precious moments of bonding and learning by utilizing all your child’s senses to make a beautiful dish. With that in mind, check out these Top 5 Tips for Cooking with Kids, and get your kids in the kitchen today!

Top 5 Tips for Cooking with Kids

This recipe for Green Pistachio Smoothie is a great start for making healthy cooking fun for kids.

1. Set Aside Time. Teaching your kids how to cook requires patience and time. Don’t rush, as cooking will be safer and more enjoyable.

  • Make cooking part of family time; figure out when the most family members are available to join in on the fun!
  • Allow extra time for clean up for messier recipes.
  • Cook in larger quantities so that you can meal prep and save more time in the long run.
Magic Banana Nut Pancakes 

2. Have Kids Pick the Recipe. Kids will be more excited to cook a recipe they personally picked out!

  • See what you have in the fridge and pantry first, and look up easy-to-follow, kid-friendly recipes according to what you already have.
  • Give your child the freedom to choose between two recipes so they aren’t overwhelmed with too many choices.
This Easy Berry Soy Yogurt Parfait is a great, colorful, interactive recipe for kids to try.

3. Set Up the Workspace. Make cooking less stressful by making the workplace child-friendly beforehand. Keep potentially dangerous kitchen tools out of reach and away from their workspace. Make sure that the child can focus on the task at hand with limited distractions. Setting up the workspace before bringing the child into the kitchen creates less stress and anxiety for the parent and more emphasis on bonding.

  • If the child is younger and cannot use hot tools or knives, the parent can chop and/or cook certain items so that the child can be in charge of the assembly process.
  • Rice bowls, salads and parfaits are great introductory dishes that allow the child to use their creativity and motor skills to arrange the fruits and veggies as they wish.
Veggie burgers, such as this recipe for Edamame Ancient Grain Veggie Burger, are great food prep recipes that kids can help with. 

4. Kids are the Food Prep Helpers. Depending on the age of the child, they can help with washing, peeling, deseeding, juicing, measuring, or cutting the produce.

  • Recipes that include sauces are a great learning opportunity for measurements.
  • If the child is too young for cutting produce, find recipes that they can use their hands for mixing such as veggie-burgers.
Try letting kids start out slow with a muffin recipe, such as this recipe for Vegan Blueberry Millet Muffins.

5. Allow Children to Make Mistakes. Give up some control and give your kids confidence in the kitchen. The steps of the recipe may be out of order, or the measurements might be slightly off, but they can feel more independent and feel encouraged to help in the kitchen more often.

  • Parents, remember to taste as you go! If a measurement is off you can easily adjust accordingly along the way.

Written by Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN and Rhesa Lacanienta, Dietetic Intern

For more tips on plant-based kid-friendly diets, check out these blogs:

How to Feed Your Plant-Based Kids
Getting Your Kids to Eat Vegetables
Helping Kids Express Gratitude for Healthful Foods
Boost Whole Grains for Kids

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