Your spotless kitchen is filled with happy sounds and smells as your children help you cook a nutritious meal. Your little angel sits on the counter listening to all your instructions and carefully follows your direction. You sigh in satisfaction, knowing that you will have something enticing to eat soon… Did anyone else just laugh out loud? Good! Me too! I’m pretty sure I actually snorted.
Cooking with children is all about expectations. If you have the expectations above, you may leave the kitchen in tears as your flour covered offspring runs screaming toward the couch and whatever inedible thing you have created quietly burns to a crisp! So, how do we enjoy this experience? It’s all about expectations, recipes, and patience.
Set your expectations in a realistic place. Children will take longer than usual. Children will make a bigger mess. Children will also want to sample and taste everything so be ready. This is also the best part! Having your child in the kitchen means you get to spend time with them. Mine (he is 5) likes to sit on the kitchen counter, meaning we are eye level and get to talk. We talk and visit and I explain what we are making and how we are going to make it. This is about the journey and the experience so I make sure that I’m not trying to move quickly. If I’m in a hurry, I ask my son to cook with me another time, and explain that I need to go fast today. Expect that the prepared recipe is going to look like it is kid-cooked. This is okay! Your cookies won’t be perfect, or things evenly sliced, it may not be Instagram photo worthy, but the important part is that your child got to experience making this with you and that they can take credit for the preparation.
I don’t believe there needs to be “kid recipes” I think that kids learn to love what we feed them and can learn to cook what we choose to share. This exploration expands their palette and helps them to become diverse healthy eaters for their entire lives. With that said, I would still choose a recipe that fits your expectations and the capabilities of your child. Don’t pick something that requires a double boiler or other time sensitive preparations. Things with plenty of measured ingredients and lots of stirring are always big favorites. It is also a good idea to choose a recipe for something that doesn’t intimidate you, save that soufflé for later.
I try to be patient, and I let my child help with everything that he can. If we are making cookies, he can measure and add ingredients to the bowl. I supervise the mixing, and then he can add more. When he is scooping flour and sugar, he will almost always spill it. I remind him again of the easiest way to make sure everything goes in the bowl. We both wear our aprons, and I expect that we will be cleaning up when we are done. He helps clean up to, that is part of the learning: you make the mess… you help clean up! He wants to taste everything and this is wonderful. I stop him from trying raw (unsafe) ingredients and remind him repeatedly that he has to ask first, because some things you can’t eat yet. When we measure, a pinch of sugar goes in the palm of his hand or onto his spoon; the same goes for the flour, and a smell for the vanilla. I let him crack the egg into a small bowl and then add it to the larger bowl, shell free! After the egg, and anytime that our fingers go into our mouth, we wash our hands for the millionth time, and we talk about germs. All of this: tasting and measuring and talking are part of the experience and are creating a love of cooking that he will have for life.
I hope that with the right expectations, a great recipe that you actually want to eat, and some extra patience you will enjoy the experience of cooking with your children as much as I do. Here are some Easter favorites that we love making together and wanted to share with you.
Bunny Tail Bread
½ cup packed brown sugar
1-½ tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp unsalted butter melted
1 lb prepared pizza dough
1/3 cup powdered sugar
2 tsp milk
- Heat oven to 350°, grease one 9-inch cake pan.
- In a small bowl blend sugar and cinnamon.
- Melt butter in another small bowl.
- Pat dough into a 6-inch square. Cut into 6 strips with kitchen shears or knife. Cut each strip into 6 pieces. You need 36 equal pieces.
- Roll each piece of dough into a ball. Dip each piece of dough into the butter, and then roll in the sugar mixture. Place each piece in the pan.
- Bake 20-25 minutes until the top is light golden.
- Cook 3 minutes, then invert onto a plate. Let cool 10 minutes.
- Mix powdered sugar and milk to make a glaze, use a spoon to drizzle glaze over bread and Enjoy!
Easter Bunny Cookies
½ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed brown sugar
½ cup butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 bag Cadbury mini chocolate eggs or other Easter candy (you need about 24 candies)
- Heat oven to 350°.
- Blend sugars and butter until smooth.
- Add vanilla and egg and blend completely.
- Add flour, baking powder, and salt and mix until combined.
- If dough is too soft refrigerate to desired consistency.
- Roll dough out to ¼ of an inch thick.
- Using a person cookie cutter (like for a gingerbread man, upside down his head makes the body, and legs make the ears of the bunny) cut out cookies.
- Arrange cookies on an ungreased baking sheet. Add one chocolate and wrap the arms around the chocolate.
- Using a toothpick or skewer poke holes to make two eyes and a mouth.
- Bake 10-12 minutes, or until edges are just golden. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 1-2 dozen depending on the size of the cookie cutter.
By Nikai Sullivan