beat summer boredom: fun cooking ideas for kids of any age

It’s summertime, which means lots of long sunny days to fill with family fun. Among trips to the pool, summer camp and cleaning out those backpacks, consider setting aside some time to cook with your kids. An impromptu cooking class in your kitchen is also a great way to get kids off their devices.

There are tons of benefits to teaching your kids to cook, but most important, it’s a fun and easy way to keep them entertained over summer break — and maybe even get a little help with meal prep! Take advantage of the slower-paced schedule of summer and invite your kids into the kitchen to cook with you.

Cooking with kids

Giving your kids cooking lessons is a great way to spend quality time together while teaching them actual life lessons they’ll use forever. You know the old saying: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

The same can be said for teaching your son to make lasagna. You’re giving him the gift of a lifetime of meals — and maybe even a leg up when he starts dating!

The kitchen can be a fun and wondrous place for kids with all the sounds and smells, not to mention the sharp knives and fire. Take your time to walk kids through how to safely chop, simmer, mix and bake with age-appropriate tasks and tools.

To the kids, it will just seem like fun, but you know that you’re actually sneaking in practical life skills, not to mention reinforcing math, science and reading. During summertime, no less! Chalk it up to your amazing parenting, and get your kids cooking.

Cooking ideas by age

Kids of all ages can benefit from time in the kitchen, which can help them start to build their culinary skills. The trick is to find appropriate tasks for every age group.

Ages 3-5

At this age, kids are brimming with energy and curiosity, and will need plenty of supervision. Focus on basic tasks they can easily do with their hands that don’t require too much precision.  

PB&J sandwiches in fun shapes are an easy meal to make together, and are limited only by the cookie cutters you have in your kitchen—and your imagination. Have the little ones spread peanut butter and jelly on slices of bread and then use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into flowers, hearts, stars and more. They’re easy, fun and better yet, lunch is served.

Even at this age, kids can start helping you with dinner prep. Hey, an extra pair of hands is always helpful, no matter how tiny they are.

More cooking tasks little ones can master:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables
  • Tear lettuce for salad
  • Squeeze lemons
  • Smash graham crackers for crusts
  • Mash potatoes
  • Pick leaves off clean herb stems
  • Gentle stirring

Ages 6-8

By now, fine motor skills are more developed so kids can tackle more difficult tasks like using measuring spoons and cracking eggs. Your kids are also starting to read and write, so now is a great time to introduce them to recipes and have them read the recipe aloud while you cook.

Let your kids try this simple recipe from Kari Karch for healthy blueberry muffin oats. The easy-to-follow, microwaveable dish includes very few ingredients and will help build your kid’s kitchen confidence (recipe below). It also means one less breakfast that you have to prepare!

More cooking tasks grade-schoolers can master:

  • Mix dry ingredients
  • Measure and count items
  • Roll cookie dough or meat into balls
  • Peel raw potatoes with a peeler
  • Grease pans
  • Use a microplane zester
  • Drain and rinse canned beans
  • Pour liquids into containers

Ages 9-12

Your preteen is becoming more independent. Deep breath … embrace it. You’ll need to make the call as to whether your particular kid is ready to use the oven yet, but start off slow with simple toaster recipes. Like toast.

When they insist that they can do everything themselves, pull out your Kenmore Ovation Stand Mixer, which is safe to use with kids. Not only does the pour-in top make it safe for kids to add ingredients while the mixer is running, the 360-degree splash guard allows kids to mix without the mess!

Try an easy banana bread recipe that tastes anything but basic, and makes good use of the bananas that are browning on your countertop. Toss in some mini chocolate chips along with the walnuts to make this treat even more delicious. The kids get to use your stand mixer and a sifter, which they’ll love. Stay close by to supervise the oven use (recipe below).

At this age, kids can:

  • Peel veggies
  • Make sandwiches
  • Mix a simple batter
  • Toast bread
  • Use the stand mixer
  • Chop foods with paring knife

Age 13+

Since your teenager knows everything about everything, they can certainly take on the challenge of mastering a recipe on different equipment in the kitchen. Introduce your teens to your Kenmore oven, range or cooktop, which provide ultra-fast boiling and preheating — great for those who tend to procrastinate until the last minute. We’re not naming names, but you know who you are, teenagers!

This age group can usually work independently in the kitchen if they’ve learned basic kitchen skills. Make sure you have the safety talk and ensure that they have good knife and oven skills before they’re left on their own.

Your teen might be lured into the kitchen if you tell them they can choose the dish and you’ll help prepare it with them. Or promise to leave them alone if that’s a more enticing offer. Who knows, you might even get a night off from dinner duty!

Is your teen interested in exploring international cuisine? Let them try a fun, easy fried rice, which also puts leftover meat and veggies to good use. No leftovers? Rotisserie or pre-cooked chicken plus frozen peas and carrots keep it super simple (recipe below). Up the fun factor by serving dinner with chopsticks.

Enjoy the spoils

No matter the age, cooking with your kids can be a lot of fun. Beyond building great memories and getting a little help with meal prep, you’re reinforcing math and reading skills over the summer to keep your kids sharp.

Cooking with kids is also a great opportunity to teach them about a balanced meal while building their kitchen confidence and setting them up for a lifetime of being good eaters … and cookies. Bake plenty of cookies.

Microwave Blueberry Muffin Oats
(recipe by Kari Karch)

Ingredients

1 package instant oatmeal
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. almond milk (or any non-dairy milk)
1 Tbsp. almond butter or peanut butter
Handful of blueberries
1/8 tsp. cinnamon
1/8 tsp. salt

Directions
Pour the oats and water into a microwave safe bowl or glass Mason jar. Heat in your Kenmore microwave for 1 minute and 30 seconds. Stir in the remaining ingredients and serve immediately.

Our Favorite Banana Bread
(recipe courtesy of Epicurious)

Ingredients

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for pan
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pan
4 medium very ripe bananas (about 13 ounces), peeled and mashed
¼ cup sour cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. kosher salt
1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts

Directions

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9×5″ loaf pan with butter and dust with flour, tapping out any excess.

Combine bananas, sour cream and vanilla in a medium bowl. Sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

Using your Kenmore Ovation stand mixer, beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed in another large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3 ½  minutes. Add eggs one at a time and beat on medium speed until fully combined, about 1 minute each. Add banana mixture and beat until just combined, about 30 seconds.

Add dry ingredients in 2 batches, beating on low after each addition and scraping down sides of bowl if necessary, until fully incorporated, about 20 seconds per batch. Fold in walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared pan and smooth top with a spatula.

Bake, rotating halfway through, until batter is set, top is dark golden brown and starting to crack, sides are starting to pull away from the pan, and a tester inserted into center of bread comes out clean, 60–65 minutes. Cool in pan on a wire rack at least 15 minutes. Run a butter knife around perimeter of pan to loosen loaf, then tap pan gently on its side until loaf releases. Transfer to a cutting board or plate and let cool completely before slicing.

Fried Rice
(recipe courtesy of Epicurious)

Ingredients

3 tablespoons canola oil
2 eggs, beaten
1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
1 cup leftover pork, chicken or beef, diced
1 cup frozen peas and carrots, thawed (plus any leftover vegetables you have on hand)
4 cups cold cooked white or brown rice
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a large skillet or wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.

Add the eggs and scallions. Cook, breaking up the eggs with a spoon until they are lightly browned.

Stir in the meat, vegetables, rice and the remaining oil. Increase heat slightly and cook until the rice is crispy, about 5 minutes.

In a small bowl, combine the soy sauce with 4 tablespoons of water. Pour the mixture over the rice.

Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed all the liquid, 3 to 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and serve, with extra soy sauce on the side.

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