Tag Archives: cooking with children

Involve Children with Meal Planning

There are some very solid reasons to involve children with meal planning and preparation. The most common ones are:

  • You have a very fussy eater.
  • Your child loves “junk food” too much.
  • You need to keep your high-octane ball of energy busy and/or entertained.

Another very good reason is that research from the National Institute of Health shows that children are far more likely to eat healthy foods when they have helped prepare them.

If you decide to venture down this road, keep in mind:  children’s palates are not as finely developed as adult palates. 

The key is to be creative and encourage the child to be creative, as well.  It is a great opportunity to re-ignite your imagination!

Ten Tips to Ensure Successful Food Planning with Kids

  1. Listen to their ideas. Get their input as you are making your grocery list, and thank them for their help, even if their ideas sound less-than-appetizing to you!
  2. Have fun with the process. Your children will follow your lead. You will set the tone.  Make it an adventure. Have them make the list on a colorful note pad or special “Cooking” tablet.  Have them draw pictures, or make up funny names for common foods. Be sure to take him grocery shopping with you and let him find the items on the list.
  3. Dare to be different. Kids love “out-of-the-ordinary” things; so, be prepared to jump right in when your child suggests a combination that sounds unusual or strange. Be willing to experiment.
  4. Plan ahead. Shop around and buy two or three of the cookbooks designed and tested to appeal to children’s palates and imaginations. Start with one and let your child pick out a few recipes that appeal to him/her.  Go over the recipes, make your list and shop together.
  5. Think and buy in miniature. Children are often enchanted by anything that is more in scale with their tiny fingers than yours. Dolls’ tea sets, tiny drinking glasses, mini marshmallows, baby bananas or miniature knifes and forks all go a long way to making eating feel like play.
  6. Combine fruit and vegetables. Take your child shopping and allow him to pick a number of fruits and vegetables (set a limit, if you are on a budget!) Ask her to think up the most whacky combinations she can. Once you get home, take the time to prepare the foods you have chosen (don’t let the moment pass).  Add a healthy, yogurt dip (a hint of raspberry or pineapple juice or a little honey will enhance fruit and veggies alike). Then, watch your children eat raw foods with relish.
  7. Make or buy a special apron for your child. Nothing says, “It’s “cooking fun time” more than having a special apron to wear. It can be particularly exciting if the child helps you make the apron. (Great choice if sewing is your thing.) Ask him or her to choose the color, the fabric, and the trim. You could make a mini-BBQ apron or “Top Chef”, if you have a son.
  8. Have a cooking routine. Set aside a specific time during the week for planning, with specific days for food prep. Planning could be done on Monday after school, or Saturday mid-morning. Some choices that may be workable for preparation are: Saturday lunch, Friday dinner, Sunday morning brunch, and after-school snacks. Pick time slots for planning that go with your child’s natural rhythm. It would not be a good idea to try to generate enthusiasm about planning menus early Saturday morning, if s/he is not a morning person.
  9. Make your own “take-out.” There are some great recipes online for your child’s favorite “fast foods” such as:  Sliders, Chicken Nuggets, Chick-Fil-A, Pan Pizza, and more.  Check out BuzzFeed Life for ideas and start have fun creating healthier versions of your child’s favorite “take-out.” You can substitute lower-fat ingredients, use less salt and sugar, and avoid the harmful additives that are found in most fast foods.
  10. Prepare a picnic. Picnics add a festive air to any meal and you do not have to travel to have a picnic. They can be held on the back lawn, the front porch, the deck, or the local park. The menu can be anything from a simple lunch basket to a full-blown grilled dinner.  Be sure to include the “special” touches such as colorful plates and goofy utensils, your family’s picnic blanket, a checkered tablecloth (available at the  dollar store), or homemade toothpick people for eating your fruit salad.  In fact, let your child (children) plan the picnic.  Don’t forget the games.

The best advice I can give regarding how to get your children to eat healthy foods is to set the example!  This cannot be a “Do as I say – not as I do” scenario if you really want to be successful in your effort.  Stop deluding yourself into believing that you can convince them to choose fruit-and-veggie snacks when you continuously snack on potato chips and Ho-Ho’s.

Children may listen to your words, but they live what they see.  When they are involved in choosing and preparing what they eat on a regular basis, they learn that food is more than simply necessary nourishment for the body. They learn that the ritual around food can be a wonderful, pleasurable experience, as well.

Instead of recreating nostalgic memories of eating comforting fast food French fries, they will turn to whipping up a quick and easy batch of fresh, chocolate-dipped strawberries, fresh bananas in oatmeal, or tasty vegetable stir-fry during those difficult adult times when they need the solace of childhood memories to sustain them.

That is a priceless gift you can give to your child’s future self.



Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies

Frosted Gingerbread Cookies

I found this recipe for Gingerbread Cookies on the back of an old edition of “The Gingerbread Man” by Jim Aylesworth, which I picked up at the library for $.50. It is a wonderful recipe for this delightful traditional cookie that your children will love. The cookies are easy to make and perfect for sharing the joy of cooking with your children or grandchildren.

In addition to being a taste-delight, the recipe is extremely versatile. It can be used for making gingerbread houses and gingerbread men that can be decorated for the holidays, or for everyday cookies that you can roll in sugar, top with frosting, or fill with white chocolate chips. All that is required is a happy heart and an imagination to create this wonderful treat that is perfect with an ice cold glass of milk.

Decorated Gingerbread Man[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”16″ size_format=”px” color=”#cc2d35″]INGREDIENTS[/typography]

  • 2½  cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 2/3 cup dark molasses (Grandma Moses recommended)
  • 6 tablespoons butter, softened (do not use margarine)

[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”16″ size_format=”px” color=”#cc2d35″]DIRECTIONS[/typography]

Make the Dough

  1. Sift all dry ingredients into a medium-sized bowl.
  2. Whisk together lightly until blended – set aside.
  3. Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a hand-held electric mixer until smooth and thoroughly blended.
  4. Add dry ingredients to the butter/molasses mixture – a cup at a time.
  5. The batter will become stiff very quickly and will have to be mixed by hand.
  6. Continue to stir until all the ingredients are completely blended.
  7. Cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Bake the Cookies

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Sift a fine layer of flour on your board and your rolling pin. Keep the flour handy as you work to keep the dough from sticking.
  3. Roll out a portion of dough ¼” thick.
  4. Cut out your gingerbread men with a floured cookie cutter.
  5. (Use any other cookie shape you want, or cut into squares)
  6. You can also roll the dough into 1″ balls that can be placed on the cookie sheet and pressed flat with the bottom of a glass or a fork.
  7. Lay the cookies 1″ apart on a buttered cookie sheet.
  8. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until slightly firm to the touch.
  9. Remove from the cookie sheet and cool on a wire rack.
  10. When completely cool, decorate or frost the cookies, as you please. 
  11. (You can also roll the balls in granulated sugar before pressing them flat and placing on the cookie sheet to bake) 

[typography font=”Myriad Pro” size=”16″ size_format=”px” color=”#b81f52″][print_link][/typography]

Cookie Recipes for Cooking with Children

[fbshare type=”button” float=”left”] [pinterest count=”horizontal” float=”left” use_post=”true”]       [twitter style=”horizontal” hashtag=”recipes,cookies” float=”left”]


Below are three excellent cookie recipes to make with children. They are well-tested by my granddaughter, Bella. She loves them.

[typography font=”Amaranth” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]Melt Away Cookies[/typography]


1 cup flour

½ cup corn starch

½ cup powdered sugar

¾ cup (1½cubes) butter, softened

1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Preheat oven to 350° F.
  2. Combine flour, corn starch and powdered sugar in medium bowl – set aside.
  3. Beat butter in large bowl with mixer at medium speed until creamy and smooth.
  4. Add flour mixture and vanilla; beat until well blended.
  5. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until easy to handle.
  6. Shape dough into 1-inch balls.
  7. Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets; flatten slightly with floured fork.
  8. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until edges are lightly browned.
  9. Remove from baking tin and cool completely on wire rack..
  10. Store in a tightly covered container.

Prep Time:  15 minutes
Cook Time:  10 to 12 minutes
Chill Time:  30 minutes
Yield:  3 dozen cookies


[typography font=”Amaranthl” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]Quick Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies[/typography]

Quick Oatmeal Cookies

These are wonderful, quick cookies. It is one of the first things my children learned to “cook.” You can add more or less oats. I have found that the weather makes a difference on the consistency. It is very important not to boil them for longer than a minute.


2 cups sugar

½ cup Nestle Quik©

½ cup milk

1 cube butter

2 cups uncooked oatmeal

1 cup nuts, chopped

1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Mix sugar, Nestle Quik, milk and butter in a sauce pan – boil for one minute (no longer than 1 minute)
  2. Remove from the heat and add the oatmeal, nuts and vanilla
  3. Drop on waxed paper – let cool

Yield: 2 1/2 dozen

Preparation Time: 10 minutes


[typography font=”Amaranth” size=”24″ size_format=”px”]Lemon Shortbread Cookies     [/typography]



4 cups flour

1 pound (4 cubes) unsalted butter, softened

1½ cups granulated sugar

1½ cups powdered sugar, sifted

4 tablespoons lemon juice (~3 lemons)

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon salt


  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350º F.
  2. Line baking sheets with parchment paper – set aside.
  3. Sift flour – set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy.
  5. Add lemon juice, vanilla, and salt – beat until well combined.
  6. Stir in flour – 1 cup at a time.
  7. Scoop a heaping tablespoon for each cookie onto prepared cookie sheets about 2 inches apart.
  8. Bake for approximately 15 minutes or until very light brown around the edges.
  9. Allow cookies to cool on cooling rack.

Yield:  5 1/2 dozen cookies


Family Fun – Baking Cookies with Children

Share your love of cooking with your children – and grandchildren.  Baking cookies with children is a great way to create memories that will last a lifetime.

More and more people are discovering the joy of baking cookies with children. It is not only fun, it is one of the best ways to start teaching your children how to cook – for several reasons:

  1. Cookies are sweet, portable (good for lunches), and easy to make.
  2. Everyone loves the end result – who can resist warm cookies from the oven?
  3. You get to spend time with your children.
  4. You are teaching them a skill that will last a lifetime.
  5. Everyone has a good time.

The cooking-making process can be very flexible. If you are a very busy mom or dad who thinks this is a great idea, but has limited time, try making the cookies in stages.

  1. Set out all the ingredients and tools you will need – placing them in the right order.
  2. Prepare the dough.
  3. Bake the cookies

These three steps can be done hours apart.  For example, set out everything whenever you have a chance during the day; make the dough in the evening; and bake the cookies the next morning.

Divide up the responsibilities.

  • Include all the children in the organization process.
  • Older children can read the recipe and do the measuring and mixing.
  • Smaller children can pour the measured ingredients into the bowl and stir gently to begin the mixing process of the dry ingredients while the butter, sugar and eggs are being creamed together.
  • When the dough is ready, children of any age can roll the dough into balls and flatten it with a fork.

When baking cookies with children, there are enough things to do and plenty of fun for everyone.  The keys to success are patience and remembering that having fun is the goal – not a perfect, tidy process.

Cooking hint:  Add a little corn starch to the dry ingredient mix (replace a little of the flour).  It gives the cookies a finer texture and a more tender crumb than cookies made with just flour.  You can also use whole wheat flour for most cookie recipes, if you prefer.

Watch for three cookie recipes that are perfect for cooking with children.