WRITTEN BY DIANE WHITTEN, CORNELL COOPERATIVE EXTENSION

Cooking shows on TV or the internet are peaking interest in cooking, including among children. You might be surprised to find you have a budding chef in your family. Invite your children into the kitchen to help make meals or snacks to learn and develop the important life skill of cooking. When kids are encouraged to help in the kitchen it can also increase their self-confidence. 

Other Benefits

Kids are experiential learners, and cooking uses all five of their senses. It’s fun and can be quality time spent with parents or loved ones. Children are more likely to try new foods, if they’ve helped to make it, so you can expose them to a variety of foods leading to a lifetime of healthy eating. Cooking with Kids is a perfect opportunity to teach basic food safety, such as Clean/Separate/Cook/Chill.

• Clean: Wash hands, utensils and surfaces often
• Separate: Don’t cross contaminate
• Cook: Cook to the right temperature
• Chill: Refrigerate and freeze food properly

Age-Appropriate Kitchen Activities 

Depending on your child’s age and developmental stage they can do certain kitchen tasks. 

2-4 Years

• Develop fine motor skills
• Wash produce
• Mix ingredients with spoon or hands
• Spread butter or icing
• Roll, shape and cut dough
• Pour liquids

5-7 Years

• Introduce more difficult cooking skills
• Measure dry ingredients
• Clean and sanitize counters
• Cut with butter knife
• Mash soft foods, like fruit, hard-boiled egg
• Crack egg

8-11 Years

• Can complete simple recipes independently
• Whisk with a handheld mixer or whisk
• Boil eggs and pasta
• Use vegetable peeler
• Grate cheese
• Open cans

12+ Years

• Challenge them with more complex recipes
• Understand the basic science of cooking
• Use oven and stove safely
• Whip egg whites
• Handle raw meat safely
• Use chef knife

The following recipes are from www.nutrition.gov under the Recipe tab. There you can search for kid friendly recipes.

No-Cook Peanut Butter Balls


This is a great recipe that 2-4-year-old children can help with by mixing and rolling. Makes 12 servings.

• 1/4 cup peanut butter (or another nut butter)
• 1/4 cup honey
• 1/2 cup instant dry milk powder (nonfat)
• 1/2 cup whole grain cereal (crushed flakes)

1. Mix peanut butter, honey and dry milk in a bowl.
2. Shape into 1-inch balls. Roll in cereal.
3. Chill until form for 30 minutes or longer.
Source: www.nutrition.gov/recipes/peanut-butter-balls 


Pita Pizzas


Older kids can make this on their own, younger ones can put on toppings. Makes 4 servings.

• 1 cup tomato sauce
• 1 cup chicken breasts (grilled, boneless, skinless, diced
• 1 cup broccoli (rinsed, chopped, and cooked)
• 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese (grated)
• 1 tablespoon basil (fresh, rinsed, chopped or 1 tsp dried)
• 4 pitas (whole-wheat, 6 1/2-inch)

1. Preheat oven or toaster oven to 450°F.
2. For each pizza, spread ¼ cup tomato sauce on a pita and top with ¼ cup chicken, ¼ cup broccoli, ½ tablespoon parmesan cheese, and ¼ tablespoon chopped basil.
3. Place pitas on a nonstick baking sheet and bake for about 5–8 minutes until golden brown and chicken is heated through. Serve immediately.
Source: www.nutrition.gov/recipes/pita-pizzas 


Broccoli Potato Soup


Kids over 12 will have a sense of accomplishment making soup for the family. Makes 8 servings.

• 40 ounces broccoli (frozen, chopped)
• 4 cups water
• 1 onion (chopped)
• 4 chicken bouillon cubes (low sodium)
• 2 cups evaporated milk (nonfat)
• 1 cup potato flakes
• 4 tablespoons cheddar cheese (shredded, reduced fat)

1. Combine broccoli, water, onion, and bouillon cubes in a stockpot. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Add milk and slowly stir in potato flakes. Cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.
3. Serve with sprinkled cheese on top.


Source: www.nutrition.gov/recipes/broccoli-potato-soup   


Crunchy Chicken Nuggets


Older kids can cut meat, younger ones can shake the bag to coat it. Makes 25 chicken nuggets.

• 1-lb. chicken breasts (boneless, skinless, cut into 1" cubes)
• 1/2 cup barbeque sauce

• 3 cups cereal (flakes)
*For a dipping sauce, mix 1/4 cup mayonnaise, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard.

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix chicken and barbeque sauce in a large bowl. *Wash hands with soap and warm water after handling raw meat.
2. Pour cereal flakes into a large plastic bag and crush into small pieces.
3. Place chicken pieces in the bag, reseal, and toss to coat.
4. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange coated chicken pieces on the baking sheet.
5. Bake until crispy and golden brown and chicken is no longer pink inside, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Source: www.nutrition.gov/recipes/crunchy-chicken-nuggets 



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