cookingCooking with kids can be fun, not to mention educational and an awesome chance to bond (and to start your kids’ love of cooking and baking early!)  Another added bonus?  It’s a great way to get picky eaters to eat.  True story!  If they make it, they tend to actually eat it (or at least a few more bites than they usually would).

But, if I’m being totally honest – cooking with kids can also be really stressful.  There’s always a mess, they insist on doing everything themselves (even when – no, especially when – they can’t), and the simplest recipes take much longer than they should.

Just repeat to yourself that “the mess can be cleaned up” and “these cookies will be made eventually” and make sure you stick to super-simple, kid-friendly recipes.  Some of my favorite things to cook with kids?

Pizza

A favorite of most small kids, pizza is a great meal to make together.  Roll out the dough, cover it with sauce (depending on the age of your kid, they might be able to do that themselves), and give them toppings with which to go nuts.  Even the youngest kiddos can sprinkle cheese or put olives/green peppers/whatever on a pizza.  My mother-in-law tells me about “pizza making” birthday parties she used to throw for my husband when he was a kid, and I think that is such a great idea – what kid wouldn’t love that??  Don’t feel like you have to be limited to your traditional pizza either – get creative!

Easy Cookies/Cakes

The keyword here is easy.  Don’t break out the complicated Christmas recipes when you’re baking with a kid, or anything that involves a seriously steady hand.  Things you can assemble in a mixer or big bowl are always great and easiest for a kid to do.  Count out spoonfuls or cupfuls of ingredients together.  Let them pour in things you’ve measured out, sift, stir, even crack eggs (though I’d advise you do this in a separate dish or bowl because you’ll probably end up with some eggshells in your mixture when they’re just learning how to do this!)  I also personally prefer baking cookies over cakes with kids because they bake faster; it’s hard for a kid to “get” that you have to let a cake bake for 40 minutes and then cool for a while before we can frost and eat it.  It’s much more satisfying to bake a cookie for 10 minutes and eat it a few minutes later!  Kids love to decorate cookies, cupcakes and cakes too – give them some sprinkles and let them go crazy.

Pasta

My mother-in-law (who clearly has the patience of a saint) would hand make pasta with her four kids when they were growing up.  She loved it so much she’s already started doing it with her grandkids, all of whom are 4 and under!  While you might not have a noodle maker in your house, you can still make pasta by hand with the help of your kids (an example of using a knife to make noodles is here).  The consistency of pasta dough is much like play dough, which is always a treat for kids – though they do have to be a bit older to understand not to continually play with and smash up the dough you already prepped for dinner.

1Whatever You’re Making

My oldest has really started to love to “cook” things himself.  He enjoys pouring milk into a pot, stirring in oats and adding sugar/toppings to his oatmeal in the morning.  He surprised me the other day by wanting to make his own scrambled eggs – so he cracked the eggs and I helped him stir them in the pan.  He helps me scoop out breadcrumbs when needed.  You might be really surprised with what your child is able to do in the kitchen!  Just take a few steps back (not too many for safety reasons, obviously) and let them try it on their own.  There isn’t a whole lot they can ruin or can’t be fixed if you’re involved in making it together.