Hands of kids cooking a kid-friendly recipe in the kitchen

Cooking With Kids: Why It’s Worth The Mess (+12 kid-friendly recipes!)

How do you feel about cooking with your kids?

Do you regularly look for ways to get the kids in the kitchen? Or does the idea of the inevitable mess and the slow pace just overwhelm you and put you off the idea completely?

For me, cooking with my kids was something I always dreamt about, even before they were born! I have fond memories of cracking eggs into cake batter, helping my mum bread chicken schnitzel, grating cheese for the salad at dinner, and of course licking cream off the beaters before they went in the wash. I wanted to replicate those experiences with my own kids.

The first time I baked with Jackson, I was thrilled. He absolutely loved being involved – tipping cups of flour into the bowl, having a go at stirring, sticking his finger in the batter for a cheeky taste, and proudly sampling the cake we made together once it came out of the oven and had cooled a little. I was finally living this experience that I had been anticipating and dreaming of for years, and it went so well! I gave myself a pat on the back for being a great mum that day.

Cooking with kids can be messy

And then… he wanted to get involved the next time I baked. Awesome, why not? Once again, we had a great time, and there was a warm, gooey tray of brownies to reward us at the end.

Each time I baked, I invited him to join me. Sometimes, he would even ask “Mummy, can we make a cake?” and I would work it into our day.

But as time went on, it started feeling a little less magical, and more like a chore. It was messy. It slowed things down. We would both need a shower at the end of it. Honestly, it was exhausting!

Kids in the kitchen- boy licking cake batter from bowl

But you know what? It was (and still is!) really good for him. Once I made myself accept the inconvenience of cooking with my kid, my perspective shifted.

Now I focus on the (many) benefits there are to cooking with kids.

1. Cooking with kids is a form of sensory engagement

Sensory play is essential for kids’ development, and cooking is an amazing way to engage their senses. Let them have (safe) tastes, let them stick their fingers in the flour, point out sounds like the cracking of an egg or the crackle of the baking paper in the tin, encourage them to sniff fresh herbs, let them observe the way meat changes colour from red to brown as it cooks.

2. Having your kids in the kitchen fosters more adventurous eating

When you cook with your kids, food becomes a little less mysterious to them. They begin to grow familiar with the ingredients that go into their meals, and foods that have previously challenged them may become less scary. This can really help to battle picky eating!

3. Children develop essential kitchen skills

Kids love the challenge of picking up new skills, so take the time to teach them age-appropriate skills such as stirring batter, straining tinned corn, washing vegetables, grating cheese, measuring and weighing ingredients, and peeling carrots… and give them lots of opportunities to practise!

Baking with a toddler

4. Your kids are proud of what they’ve created

Fun story: when I was a kid, my grandparents let me go nuts in their kitchen. I would bake cakes with too much sugar and not enough flour and cookies baked into the batter. I would cook one piece of french toast with five eggs in it. It was all pretty awful! But nothing beat the feeling of proudly presenting my creation to my mum and dad when they came to pick me up, and watching them “enjoying” what I had laboured over in the kitchen (though I’m quite sure they did NOT enjoy it!). When kids create something, they’re proud of it – and fostering that pride is an awesome way to build their self-confidence.

5. Cooking with kids is a great bonding experience for the family

Any expert will tell you that one-on-one time with your kids will massively benefit them – they enjoy themselves, they feel more connected to you, and the attention helps them feel more secure and seen. So what better way to get some quality time with your kiddo than by cooking something delicious – and devouring the delicious end result – together?

6. Kids become more aware of what goes into their body

We have great conversations in the kitchen as we prepare ingredients; which foods are healthy and which ones are better left as treats, how some foods help us grow, how some foods give us strong bones and teeth, and how some foods give our bodies lots of energy. We talk about how important vegetables are, or the many different ways we can eat eggs (scrambled, fried, or even in our pancakes!). For us, it has sparked a natural interest in trying to understand foods, rather than just mindlessly eating them.

7. Cooking can gradually become an essential role that your child plays in the family

When I was a youth leader to 11/12-year-old girls, I called one of the girls in my care to check-in, and was amazed when, after our chat, she said “I’d better go now. I have to cook dinner.” It turned out she was in charge of the family meal once a week. I listened, extremely impressed, as she described the roast dinner that she was going to put on that night. That conversation has always stuck with me and inspired me to raise kids who know their way around the kitchen. Because baking cookies with mum can eventually make way for a child being able to cook a simple meal for the family.

Two young kids cooking in the kitchen

So – ready to start cooking with your kids? Here are some tips:

1. Get a helper tower

A helper tower like this is a safe, very kiddo-friendly way to easily get your child involved with the cooking.

2. Purchase kid-safe knives

Get your kids safely cutting fruits and vegetables with kid-friendly knives like these – designed to cut food, but not skin.

3. Plan for the inevitable mess

Accept right now that you’re going to need to clean up everyone and everything once the cooking is over! Clear your bench completely, lay a towel on the floor, allow time for a quick shower after… and embrace every spill and drop as it happens.

4. Allow extra time

Cooking with kids can be a lengthy process – it will always take longer than if you were cooking solo. To avoid stressing about your schedule, ensure you allow a nice big window of time for your kids to be in the kitchen.

5. Allow lots of tastes

Kids are curious, so foster that curiosity by letting them taste test what they want (within reason – obviously deter them from reaching for raw eggs or meat!). Let them discover that cocoa tastes bitter and flour will stick in their mouth. Let them chomp on a raw chunk of vegetable they would normally encounter steamed or roasted. Let them sample a spoonful of butter and a spoonful of sugar, then a spoonful of the two ingredients combined to learn how they work together. Let them explore!

Boy sticking his head in a bowl of cake batter

6. Get them involved in the clean-up

Teach them that cooking isn’t just about creating a meal – it also creates a mess! Teach them to put away ingredients once you’re done using them. Have them help you load the dishwasher, or forego the dishwasher and wash by hand together at the sink. Get them to wipe down the bench while you sweep the floor. Give them little responsibilities that aren’t necessarily fun, but are definitely necessary.

Kid-friendly recipe and food ideas

12 kid-friendly recipes you can cook with your kids!

Feeling pumped to get your kids in the kitchen, but not sure how to start? I’ve handpicked some fantastic kid-friendly recipes to get you started. The recipes below were created by food bloggers specifically to be cooked with kids (and they all look really yummy too!)

Bread pizzas are a great way to get kids in the kitchen

This yummy bread pizza would make a great lunch or after school snack that your kids will LOVE customizing themselves.

Fairy cakes are fun to cook with kids!

Your kids will enjoy baking, icing and decorating these adorable fairy cakes.

These english muffin pizzas are a simple kid-friendly recipe

For another kiddo-friendly pizza recipe, these english muffin pizzas look tasty.

Ice cream in a bag - made by kids

This almost-instant ice cream in a bag recipe is perfect for kids who love the idea of making ice cream, but don’t want to wait half a day for it to set.

Strawberry banana muffins; perfect for cooking with kids

These fruity little strawberry and banana muffins are kid-tested… and approved!

French yoghurt cake is designed to be baked with kids

I love the concept of this French yoghurt cake! All ingredients are measured using an ordinary individual-size yoghurt cup – meaning that even a child who can’t read can participate in the creation of this special treat.

No-bake chocolate biscuit cake is a great project for kids in the kitchen

There are plenty of steps for little hands to get involved with in this no-bake biscuit cake recipe.

Flower pot bread baked by kids

This flowerpot bread is literally baked in a flower pot! I know my kids would get a real kick out of this recipe…

Kids will love cooking mini quiches

These filo pastry mini quiches look like they’d be a real kid-magnet – especially if the kids have assembled them themselves.

Kids can easily bake these cookie bars using cake mix

These easy cookie bars are made from cake mix, making the mixing and measuring process a breeze for kids.

Frozen banana penguins are a great edible craft

I don’t think any kid on the planet could resist chomping into these frozen banana penguins.

Cooking with kids? Try these simple cheesy garlic drop biscuits

For a savoury snack or side dish, these cheesy garlic drop biscuits are a great little project for the kids.

And for a ton more kid-friendly recipes, check out these cooking with kids cookbooks:

Baking class: 50 recipes kids will love to bake! (Deanna F Cook)

Good Housekeeping Kids Cook! (Susan Westmoreland)

Kid Chef Every Day: The Easy Cookbook For Foodie Kids (Colleen Kennedy)

The Complete Cookbook For Young Chefs (America’s Test Kitchen Kids)

Kids Chef Junior: My First Kids Cookbook (Anajali Shah)

Super Foods For Super Kids Cookbook (Noelle Martin)

The Big, Fun Kids Cookbook (Food Network Magazine)

Super Simple Baking For Kids (Charity Mathews)

Cooking Class: 57 Fun Recipes Kids Will Love To Make (And Eat!) (Deanna F Cook)

Do you already love cooking with your kids regularly? Does the idea of having kids in the kitchen give you connections? Let me know in the comments where you’re at!

For more easy recipes to cook with kids, be sure to follow my Pinterest board, Easy Family Recipes.

Cooking with chocolate-faced toddler

Cooking With Kids: Why It’s Worth The Mess (+12 kid-friendly recipes!)

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