Photo: Jetson

With parents across the country balancing a lot more time at home with kids and keeping them entertained, many families are coming together to whip up dinner or teach some life skills during remote learning. With some simple tips and tricks, parents can enjoy their time in the kitchen with their kids.

Three to five-year-olds can start by practicing handwashing prior to eating or preparing any foods. Paired with washing fresh produce in the sink and cleaning off tabletops, this habit not only gives kids something to do but teaches them about the important link between food and hygiene. Kids this age have limited dexterity, but can help by brushing or painting oils onto foods or sheet pans, shaking or sprinkling herbs and spices, and scooping foods into bowls or serving dishes. One activity to make food prep exciting for children around this age is to use cookie cutters to cut shapes out of fruits, vegetables, tortillas, or cookies; not only does this give the kids an entertaining and non-dangerous interaction with the food, but the fun shapes may even encourage your child to try a food they were previously averse to.

Along with the above activities, six to seven-year-olds can complete more complex tasks like peeling raw fruits and vegetables, scooping out avocados, and breaking eggs into a bowl (remind them to wash their hands after). At this age, they can also begin to cut fruits and veggies with kid-friendly knives, but must always be under the supervision of an adult. Importantly, they can begin to clear the table and load the dishwasher, enforcing the idea that as much fun as it is to create in the kitchen, we also have to be responsible for cleanup.

Once children are eight to nine years old, they have more developed motor skills and can take over tasks that would be frustrating for a younger child. They can try spinning a hand-held can opener to open canned foods, squeezing citrus fruit to make fresh juice, and transferring leftovers into containers to refrigerate for later. Since reading skills are strong at this point, you can put your children in charge of checking thermometers to ensure food is cooked to the right temperature.

Ten to twelve-year-olds can have some more responsibility in the kitchen, including boiling pasta or microwaving foods. At this age, reading skills are solid enough for children to accurately measure ingredients for more complex recipes. Of course, as always, children should be supervised in the kitchen, and if any task feels like it is too advanced for your child to undertake, leave it until you feel more comfortable.

Cooking or baking together can also be a time to bond, make memories, and teach valuable life skills, as well as incorporate math and more. Looking for some recipes that are kid-approved and family-friendly?

Fruity Energy Bites 
This is a great option for 12 months plus!

Ingredients:

2 Cups quick oats

1 cup nut butter of choice

1/2 cup honey

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup craisins or raisins, chopped

1 tsp cinnamon

*No honey for children under 12 months of age

Directions:

1. Mix all ingredients together.

2. Freeze mixture until easier to mold.

3. Form roughly 1-2 Tbsp of mixture into a ball and put on a plate.

4. Freeze balls.

5. Place in a Ziploc baggie, store in the freezer and take out as needed!

PB Yogurt Dip

This is a great option for 6 months plus!

Ingredients:

1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt  (adds more protein!)

1 Tbsp nut butter of choice

*For any children over 12 months, add 1/2 tsp of honey for a touch of sweetness

Directions:

1. Stir all ingredients together until well mixed.

Perfect for dipping fruits, veggies and crackers into for an extra boost of protein and fat to prevent them from asking for a snack in five minutes. 

Kids in the Kitchen Tip: Let your child stir the ingredients together and depending on their age, have them measure the yogurt!

Banana Cookies

Ingredients:

2 ripe bananas

1 cup quick oats

1/4 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips, M&Ms or ingredient of your choice!

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Mash bananas and mix together with oats and mix in of choice.

3. Place roughly 1-2 Tbsp of mixture onto greased cookie tray for each cookie.

4. Cook for roughly 8-10 minutes.

Kids in the Kitchen Tip: Let them have fun mashing the bananas and counting the chocolate chips or M&Ms into the mixture.