Kids in the Kitchen: Cooking Delicious, Healthy Recipes With Little Helpers

From the earliest age Zach was able to hold a spoon, he has wanted to help in the kitchen. Obviously, I wanted to be sure that he wasn’t going to get hurt doing these tasks. Of course, no one was going to go handing my one year old a knife, but encouraging his natural interest in cooking was a must for me. So, I spent many long, hard hours researching how kids could have their kitchen interest engaged… safely.

Armed with suggestions from around the web, and a few realizations of my own, I started giving Zach ways to help in the kitchen, and he started showing me new ways he could succeed, also. So, below is my list of great ways that kids can help out in the kitchen, safely and in age-appropriate manners.

Two year olds can…

-Wipe a table. (Fun tip! Spray shaving cream on the table, then allow your child to draw pictures in the shaving cream with their finger and rub it around on the table. It’s a great sensory experience! Wipe the table, and their hands, thoroughly, and enjoy your clean table!)
-Tear lettuce for a big salad
-Stir a mix or batter with supervision
-Rinse food, like vegetables and fruits
-Add ingredients to a bowl, with guidance

Three year olds can do all of the above and…

-Squeeze citrus fruits for fruit juice or lemonade
-Assemble a pizza by spreading sauce, adding toppings and cheese
-Knead dough
-Peel fruits like oranges and bananas (sometimes needing help to start the orange peeling)
-Count food items
-Crack eggs with help
-Scoop food from one bowl to another

Four year olds can do everything above and also…

-Set the table
-Measure dry ingredients
-Make sandwiches (with guidance)
-Cut soft foods like bananas with a butter knife and a LOT of supervision

Five year olds, finally, can do everything above and…

-Measure liquids
-Separate eggs with an egg separator
-Zest fruits with supervision

But the really important thing to remember is that while kids help in the kitchen, they need guidance and help staying safe. For optimal child safety, give your child their own workspace! If they have a workspace of their own that’s away from knives, other sharp objects, hot stoves, and hot pans, they’re able to stay safe from harm while they cook and learn!

Always supervise children in the kitchen. Be sure to tell them all of the safety rules so they know that only grown-ups should use the stove, small appliances like toasters and blenders, and sharp items like knives.

Be sure everyone washes their hands and that you wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly to prevent the spread of disease!

Don’t mind the mess! Start out with a clean kitchen, but realize that if you’re cooking with a child, it’s going to take a little longer than doing it yourself, and there will probably be a larger cleanup. Invite your child to help you clean up any areas that are safe to help in, so they learn that cleanup is part of the cooking process. But don’t cry over spilled milk… recognize that the mess and longer time is just part of the learning process and part of the memories that you and your child will hold dear for years to come.

Want to keep your kids extra safe? I’ve designed a fun 8×10 printable safety tips poster. You can check out the preview below, then download it here.

If you’d like to test out these great safety tips by cooking with your little helper, you’re in luck, because today, my son Zach and I are sharing two favorite recipes from our kitchen that I know will be a hit in your kitchen, as well. First up, a delicious smoothie.

Mango Pineapple Fruit Smoothies

Zach is a huge fan of smoothies, so we always love finding a new smoothie recipe to try. We’ve bought bagged smoothie kits, shaker smoothies, and made a variety of fresh and frozen fruit and veggie smoothies, but this one hits the spot every time, especially during the summer.

You’ll need 1/2 a cup diced mango (about one large mango), 1/2 cup diced pineapple (about 1/4 a whole pineapple), 1 Tablespoon honey, 1 container of vanilla yogurt (6-8 ounces), and 1/2 cup orange or mango juice. We had mango on hand, so that’s what we used.

Parents, go ahead and pre-slice the mango chunks into small bite-sized pieces. If you have an older child, they may be able to help with this part with supervision, but you’ll still likely want to cut the meat off of the harder pit so they don’t slip and cut themselves.

Pre-slice the pineapple, as well, also into bite sized pieces. Again, an older child may be able to help with this step with supervision, but use your best judgement about what your child can handle, and make sure they’re experienced in handling a knife.

You may also want to take this time to pre-measure the juice and honey, depending on your child’s age. Because Zach will only be 3 in July and is still learning in the kitchen, I chose to measure them in advance.

Invite your little chef to pour the ingredients into the blender. Make sure you remind your child to be mindful of the sharp parts inside the blender, and remind them to never stick their hands inside.

Blend until smooth, then enjoy!

This makes approximately 6 (1/2 cup) smoothie servings!

While sipping your smoothie, talk to your child about their favorite part of making this recipe, and ask them what sort of fruit they think might go well in a future smoothie! You may be starting a delicious and healthy smoothie addiction in your child!

Tangy Fruit Dip

My son is a huge fan of fruit. He also loves yogurt. So what’s the best way to pair the two? With a delicious yogurt-based fruit dip, of course! Because trust me, my son can’t eat any food from fish sticks to fries, without wanting to “dip it!” and I wanted to re-create that same experience with a healthier, lighter fare that makes a great afternoon snack or a delicious side dish or party food.

You’ll need a container of vanilla yogurt (6-8 ounces), two teaspoons of honey, and 3-4 key limes (or 1 lime*), and the fruit your child likes best to dip. We personally chose watermelon, but this fruit dip is great with strawberries, plums, pineapple, and more!

I started by slicing my watermelon so it would be ready to eat as soon as Zach finished making the dip. To easily slice a melon into fry-like sticks, cut off each end of the melon, then shave the sides off using the knife. Finish by cutting the watermelon into slices, and those slices into sticks. Quick and easy!

Next, juice 3-4 key limes (or 1 lime*). Make sure you strain out the seeds! An older child could help you with this task, but since Zach is a bit younger, I went ahead and did it myself. You can also zest the limes or key limes to use as a garnish, if you’d like.

Have your child combine a container of yogurt and two teaspoons of honey.

Then, stir in the lime juice.

Remember, like Chef Gordon Ramsay says, all good chefs taste as they cook! As long as there are no raw eggs or raw meat, foods are generally safe to taste, and this is a great learning opportunity.

Finally, serve! If you’re photographing your food first, like I did to share with you guys, be careful that a sneaky little chef doesn’t come in and steal the food props! You might have a cheeky grin in store for you if that happens.

But in the end, it’s a delicious way to add a little protein from the yogurt into a great snack for fruit-loving kids!

*As you might have noticed at your local grocery store, typical lime prices have skyrocketed! Limes that usually cost around $0.39 cents are priced at $1.99 currently. Why? Well, a lot of reasons… first, there was a drought that reduced the lime quantities this year during the growing season. Then, heavy rains knocked blossoms off of the trees which meant even fewer limes grew. Because they became more rare, the Mexican Drug Cartels started seizing lime shipments and making farmers pay large sums. The farmers had no choice, and ended up having to pass these higher costs onto their distributors and customers. Some lime growers even stopped growing the plants out of fear of the cartels. So that’s why there are fewer limes and they’re a higher price. You can definitely use key limes in the recipe, which are grown in the USA and a bit cheaper at the moment. You could also wait a few weeks until the limes grown in California are ripe and ready to be shipped across the county, lowering prices. Or, you can use an artificial lime juice if you prefer. In fact, even lemons would work in the recipe.

Now, if you’d like to remember these delicious and easy recipes, don’t forget to download my printable recipe cards here. They’ll print on an 8.5×11 sheet and can be cut into 4×6 cards to fit into your recipe card box!

 

Make sure you come back next Monday through Friday, as every day I’ll be sharing more tips, recipes, and printables to make summer meals easier, more affordable, and more fun for your family. There may even be a giveaway in store, so stay tuned!

Happy Cooking!

 

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5 comments

  1. Love this! I started my children out at cooking at a very young age. My hope was they would be making dinner soon instead of me. It has worked both of my children love to be in the kitchen and they cook dinner quite often. I totally believe start them out young. Love the pics of your little helper.

    1. The earlier you get kids in the kitchen, the more confident they are to cook. It’s great that you started them on cooking early! I’m sure it was a real inspiration.

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