Summertime is coming, which means lots of long sunny days to fill with family fun. Among trips to the pool, sleepovers at camp and cleaning out those backpacks, set aside time to cook with your kids. An impromptu cooking class is a fun and easy way to keep them entertained (and without screens) over 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. 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.
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.
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. It also means one less breakfast that you have to prepare!
Microwave Blueberry Muffin Oats
(recipe by Kari Karch)
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
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.
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 you can start off slow with simple toaster recipes. Like toast.
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.
Our Favorite Banana Bread
(recipe courtesy of Epicurious)
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
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.
Use a mixer to beat butter and brown sugar on medium speed in another large bowl until light and fluffy, about 3½ 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.
Since your teenager already knows everything about everything, they can certainly take on the challenge of mastering a recipe on your oven, range or cooktop. 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.
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.
(recipe courtesy of Epicurious)
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
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.
Cooking Is Time Well-Spent
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.