Summer time means more time with the kids and more time to teach them something while having fun. Many of us still have a few weeks with the kids at home. How about when it’s cooking outside to do some cooking inside?
Every kid should learn how to make the basics. Who wants a 19-year-old calling home to ask how to make Ramen noodles, for goodness sake? Cooking teaches kids of all ages many things besides the obvious. It teaches them to count and to measure, and refines motor skills. In older kids, it encourages creativity. And maybe – just maybe – if you teach the kids to make chicken tenders at home they won’t be pestering you to take them to a fast-food franchise to get them? You’ll save money on food and gas.
Where to start?
Start little kids off with the basics, like making a simple sandwich and heating up a can of soup. Here’s your chance to teach about knife safety and stove smarts. After they master cold sandwiches (in one lesson, no doubt), move on to grilled cheese. Show them how to make a salad. When they put it together themselves, they might even eat it. Put in fun things like goldfish crackers instead of croutons, and perhaps some of those mini-sized grape tomatoes. Cut “faces” out of cucumber slices. Find a “starter” dressing they’ll like – usually ranch.
There are lots of cookbooks for kids at your local bookstore, or on Amazon. Books range from recipes concocted by celebrity chefs to tried-and-true ideas from experienced moms.
Don’t have a kids’ cookbook and don’t want to buy one? There are thousands of recipes online for FREE.
To get preschoolers started, check out cooking games online, such as the ones on zui.com. It’s FREE and a fun way to introduce the idea of cooking to young ones. No actual cooking involved. Luscious Lemon Cake lets your child mix all the ingredients for the titular cake, bake and frost it. Cake Bar teaches time management skills by having your child find the recipe, choose the ingredients, order supplies and appease waiting customers. Other games include Knead for Speed, Taco Bar and Superhero Pizza.
One of our favorite sites, All Recipes, has nearly 2,000 recipes for kids of all ages. A special Kid Cooking Recipes section offers 2,415 options. Try making s’mores – that summer campout favorite. Make Pigs in a Blanket by wrapping hot dogs in crescent roll dough and baking. Teach them how to make chicken nuggets that are baked rather than fried (a lot healthier than fast-food varieties). There are no-bake desserts (good for hot weather) and ideas for making breakfast a treat instead of a task. French toast, anyone?
The KidsHealth website not only has good recipes that are easy for kids to make but throws a pinch of good nutrition in the mix. It includes recipes for kids with diabetes or cystic fibrosis, kids who are vegetarian and recipes that are gluten-free and lactose-free. It also offers good tips for kids who want to make their own sack lunches for school this fall. They’ll even send a FREE weekly newsletter for kids who sign up.
The site also offers games including Mission Nutrition, which instructs you to do things like find the beverage in the refrigerator that has the most added sugar, then gives you bonus points for correctly guessing how many extra teaspoons of sugar are in said beverage.
The Food Network site has lots of ideas for things kids can make and that teenagers would like, too. We’re talking quesadillas and chili, nachos and spaghetti with meat sauce. Celebrity chefs including Guy Fieri, Giada De Laurentiis, Tyler Florence and Rachael Ray offer tips, videos and recipes that will be sure to entertain kids while educating them. There are also articles for parents, including the aptly titled Cooking with kids without going insane.
Teens who tackle and master these recipes will not be helpless when they move out on their own. They might even add a little twist of their own. You know, get creative. A kid who can cook – even if it’s Ramen noodles – will never starve and won’t have to pay fast-food prices for simple-to-make meals.