Cooking with your children can be a fun and educational experience. Your kids will love to learn how to create delicious food and at the same time, spend quality time with their parents or other older family members. But what about your smaller children? We tend to keep our 2 and 3 year old kids out of the kitchen, obviously thinking that it is best to keep them away from knives and other cooking implements; not to mention the hot stove and oven.
But here are some chubby-finger-friendly meals that even your little ones can help prepare:
- Sandwiches – lay the bread and toppings out on plates. The kids can work their way down the assembly line of food, inventing their own sandwich creation. Easy toppings for little hands to navigate include deli meats, cheese squares and sliced vegetables like tomatoes. You can also let them put on their own spreads like butter, mayonnaise or mustard by using a spoon if they are too little to use a butter knife.
- Mini pizzas – you can use sandwich rolls, English muffins or sliced bagels for the base of the pizzas. Set out tomato paste (with a spoon for spreading) and pizza toppings like pepperoni, ham, tomatoes, sliced mushrooms and grated cheese on separate plates so that the kids can pick and choose their favorites.
- Baked goods like cakes and brownies – set out the pre-measured ingredients in cups so that your little munchkins can dump them into the mixing bowl and stir, stir, stir. When I was a little girl, a long time ago, before we used things like cooking spray to prevent cakes from sticking to the pan, my Mom would let me butter the cooking pan. You end up with butter all over your fingers so it’s very messy, but oh so much fun for kids!
- Fried bread shapes – mix a simple dough of flour, water and a tea-spoon of vegetable oil. Add salt to make it a savory snack or sugar for a sweet treat. You can also add a couple of drops of food color to brighten up the dough. Roll into small balls, cover in flour so it doesn’t get too sticky, and then let your little ones mold it like play-dough, or roll it with a rolling pin, into their favorite shapes. A quick light pan-fry by a responsible adult and voila, edible fun shaped snacks!
- Desserts – with lots of elements! Desserts that require minimal cooking, but some easy assembly, are fun for kids to help with. For example – ice-cream sundaes, comprising ice-cream, chopped nuts, whipped cream and flavored syrup; or an English trifle-style concoction where the kids can layer pre-cooked sponge cake, custard, fruit, jelly and whipped cream into a bowl or glass. You will love the earnest look of concentration on your kids’ faces as they carefully create their masterpiece, and try and build the tallest sundae ever.
A few things to steer clear of – it is best not to let your smaller children prepare any food involving raw meats. They may accidentally touch their face, or a household surface, and spread some potentially nasty health hazards that way. Also, keep the sharp utensils away from them and all hot surfaces (stoves and ovens) should only be handled by adults.
Cooking with kids is fun, and is an entertaining activity that can get them excited about food and how it evolves from ingredients to a final meal. In some cases, it may even help get fussy eaters to try new things. My 3 year old daughter has definitely opened up her palate to new food experiences after having fun with the preparation. And the look of pride on her face as she presents her Daddy with her latest culinary creation for his dinner is absolutely priceless.