Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cooking with Kids {ways to include them in meal prep}

Howdy friends! Feels like it’s been a while since we’ve chatted…probably cause it has been!  I spent an extended weekend in the Sierras for some much needed R&R vacation time {read: time away from my painting insanity} with my family.

And then last night I attended this amazing cooking class with Shane {& Chantal} Valentine, author of The Baby Cuisine Cookbook: Internationally Inspired Organic Recipes for Babies 6-18 months and fellow blogger: Alina’s Cucina.

In addition to sharing some wonderful recipes, chopping advice, and frying pan suggestions, Shane provided inspiration for including children in all aspects of meal prep: from shopping/washing/cooking to family/community meals.  I left with that old cliché in my head:

“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” 



And with regards to children and mealtime that is so true.  Food should be more than just sitting down to a plate of food and making sure to clear your plate…it should be an experience that is shared with one another, filling our bodies not only with healthy, nutritional fuel but touching all of our senses with lasting memories of togetherness.  

There were so many points Shane shared that I not only agreed but which also inspired me… and my head is spinning with so much I’d love to share.  But in the interest of keeping this as a simple blog post as opposed to an eBook, I’ll just continue with
ways to have children help with meal prep.

Our dinner tonight consisted of 2 dishes I prepared last night at the class:
Simple Tomato Bruschetta & Lemon Shrimp Pasta.

First off, let me suggest that you take your children to the grocery store with you.  I know it might sound daunting at first, but it really can be a fun experience and one you and your children might actually look forward to.  I’ll save all my grocery shopping tips for another post {again, trying to keep this to a single blog post!}

Here are just some ideas of things young children can help with in the kitchen
{my helpers tonight were both 3 1/2 years old}:

~Wash produce and/or remove their stickers-




~Arrange items on a plate or in preparation for cooking {this is a great task for kids, and one that tends to be time consuming for me…like arranging the potatoes on the cookie sheet so that none are over-lapping!}


~Remove stems-

IMG_4734 IMG_4735

~Peel garlic-


~Juice lemons-


~Develop their own techniques-


~*Plate* the food-


And some other ideas that I didn’t include pictures for {which they also participated in}:

~make placemats {as simple as drawing pics on 8.5x11 paper}
~set the table
~fold the napkins
~fill water glasses
~chose candles

A meal that your child has had a hand in preparing, is a meal your child will be proud to eat.  It’s a much different feeling to present a dish to your family that you have helped prepare than to sit down at  the table and have a plate of strange looking food placed in front of you.  That’s when you get the question: “Yuck, what’s this?”  But when your children help prepare the meal, from shopping for the ingredients to prepping and serving each dish, they know exactly what goes into everything…each ingredient and most importantly, the LOVE.

Here are our final products:

~Tomato Bruschetta:


~Lemon Shrimp Pasta:


A few more bits of commentary from the peanut gallery…the entire prep from start to finish for this meal was 1 hour.  That includes eating all of the bruschetta, chatting with the 2 neighbors we invited to dinner, and setting the table. Keep in mind, this was an activity, not a chore. My children loved every second of helping me and didn’t think of it as “helping mom” but rather saw it as another activity in their day- & one they enjoyed.

Meal prep these days has turned into “just another chore” that you have to get done {and dread}. We struggle with ways to keep our kids occupied, happy and out of our hair while we cook {or heat up} dinner as fast as possible… instead of embracing the experience as another activity in our day, just like soccer practice or playing with Legos…hey, it’s one less hour you have to plan for your kids and they are learning more than you know {and it’s free, too!}

And you know……It’s OK if dinner takes a bit longer to cook, especially when all the chefs are snacking along the way!



Mmmmmmmm-Wa!  Kiss the Cook!


  1. I so relate to your idea that cooking is a chore to get done as fast as possible! I'm going to try your ideas and see if I can change my attitude about cooking! Thanks!

  2. Taking the stickers off is one of the secret lures I use to get my son to begin the cooking process at home, too!

  3. What a beautiful post. I see little girls there--is your big boy there too? I let Gus help me too and Greta is just getting into it. She does like to stir though. I look forward to your shopping tips post. We do pretty well, but after too long or doing more than one store, they get the crazies. XO

  4. mavis E. ButterfieldApril 12, 2011 at 12:13 AM

    Yay for cooking with kids! Loves it! When i taught summer camp, I often did cooking projects with the kids. I'd take 5-10 kids with me to a separate building where we'd concoct a masterpiece to present to the entire group later. My fave was a "7 layer dip," where each kid would be responsible for doing one of the layers. Super easy and fun. This fiesta theme would tie into some international theme we were doing campwide for the particular week. The most monotonous task for we Adults, can be FUN for a kid. I love the sticker peeling task you spoke of here - dexterity building and time spent! I'd LOVE to try your Bruschetta!

  5. Love the quote and couldn't agree more with you more Celeste! I even bought Matt an apron that he proudly wears; pn today's menu is apple strudel for the troop meeting, they LOVE me and Matt's treats every meeting, and his favorite homemade shrimp alfredo for dinner. Now I'll have to work on the getting enthusiastic about taking him to the grocery store or even including him at all, which I rarely do b/c he still climbs everything, some things never change. Continue to inspire, you're awesome and congratulations on another honorable mention! Kolleen


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