I learned to cook because my mum wanted to keep me entertained so she gave me jobs to do in the kitchen from being tiny. That time we spent together was always the time we had our best chats and it gave me the confidence and love of cooking that I use to this day.
I get it though, in a normal week, adding children to the stress of cooking isn’t always easy, especially when you’re in a rush and they’re tired. So use the summer when you may have more time, to get into the habit of sharing the work with your children. It may be messy at first but so was potty training right? Children are much more inclined to eat what they make themselves, so pour a glass of wine, ignore the mess and let them help. Then have them help clear up afterwards. Tidying and wiping down is as much a part of cooking as the mixing and licking so teach them early and take advantage of the free help.
How to help children use a knife safely
Use a round ended serrated knife (like a steak knife) to chop things. Children should hold what they’re cutting with their thumb and forefinger, like a bridge, and use the knife in between (we say the knife is a train the fingers are a tunnel). And remember to only use a knife when a grown up is around, and only hold the handle and not touch the blade. Always supervise children around knives and the oven.
Children’s knife This is the knife my children have used from being toddlers. The round ended knife in particular is great for little hands and gets them used to using knives safely. I also use this to cut tomatoes. Buy in the US or the UK.
Recipes to try
For the littlest fingers
One of my all time favourite things to make with little ones is homemade tortillas and guacamole – so much so that I made this video of me and my boys making it. Here’s the recipe
Dressings, particularly jam jar dressings, are really good for getting kids involved in cooking. They can measure, shake and taste all the ingredients and finished product. You can then help them to dress a salad, add the dressing to soup or over roasted vegetables.
Dips – red pepper houmous, pesto and beetroot, cannellini, basil and sherry vinegar dip. Little ones love to tear up herbs, slice peppers and pulse food processors.
Storecupboard pizzas everyone can make their own pizzas with this recipe; a great opportunity to get kids choosing flavour combinations, ripping up herbs, chopping mushrooms and grating cheese.
For ages 6+
Banana bread as this banana bread doesn’t need precise measuring its a great one to make with kids. They can mash bananas, mix the ingredients and help spread the mixture in the tin.
Citrus curd this only takes 10 minutes to make and introduces weighing and measuring ingredients.
Grilled cheese are a staple in any house. Get the kids involved in grating cheese, spreading butter and mustard and being on hand to help cook the sandwiches.
Cheese and courgette muffins another one for the box grater and chopping, kids can also mix the batter and help divide the mixture into muffin tins.
Roast sausage gnocchi with tomato and greens kids will love chopping up the sausage and beans with scissors then mixing through the oil.
Meatballs – little hands are great at rolling meatballs, just make sure they don’t eat any of the uncooked meat.
For older children
Chocolate sea salt pretzels a really easy recipe, perfect for homemade gifts and as a first dish to create from start to finish on their own.
The easiest crumbliest shortbread a perfectly easy biscuit recipe and delicious too.
Flapjack another great bake that can be made without much supervision.
Giant sausage roll perfect for picnics and lunches.
Black bean burgers protein packed, freezable and satisfying for even the most hardened carnivores.
Speedy spring tomato, corn and basil frittata older kids will be able to make this alone but may need some assistance with getting the finished frittata out of the pan to serve.
Roasted tomato, herb and feta pasta an easy and delicious pasta dish to add to an older child’s repertoire.
Julie’s lentil, carrot and tomato soup everyone needs a good soup in their recipe collection and this is easy, delicious and comforting. Have them watch the how to chop and onion video to help them learn safe chopping skills.
15 minute thai basil stir fry this quick meal will allow your child to practice chopping, browning meat and flavour balance. A great one for the older teens to practice before going off to college/university. The recipe includes a cookalong video to help them learn some of the chopping and seasoning tricks.
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