Tips on How to Cook with Your Kids…and Still Have Fun!

The idea of cooking with your kids seems idyllic in your mind.  Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.  Laughing and tossing flour at each other, as jazz music plays in the background.  And then 30 minutes later…voila, the perfect roast.

Then you actually start cooking.  The screaming begins.  The crying.  The frustration.  And that’s just from the adults.

So what can you do to make this more like your dream than your worst nightmare?  Well, a little preparation goes a long way.  Make your time together more enjoyable with these simple tips:

1.  For lower commitment than a whole recipe, get your kids to help with one or two little parts of the meal, like washing fruit, taking the stems off beans or cracking eggs.  They still learn something, they feel helpful and they just like being with you!

2.  If you’re feeling more ambitious, pick a recipe out before you tell them about your activity together.  Or pick a recipe with them the day before.  This way, you can check that you have all the ingredients before you start and you won’t have an argument about which recipe to make, as your stomachs start to grumble.

3. Gather all the ingredients together first because even though you think you have enough milk, you may not.  This is bad news half way through a recipe.

4.  Pick an age/skill appropriate recipe.  If you are just starting to cook together or if your kids are young, make something simple.  Or choose a dish that you already know how to cook well.

5.  Make sure you have enough time.  Getting the kids to help will naturally take longer than if you were to make it on your own.  Expect this.

6.  Let them taste things as you go.  I find this especially true for fruits and veggies.  It’s a great way to sneak some extras into them, before they even make it to the meal.  It’s also a great way to introduce different ingredients.

7.  Don’t be afraid of trying something new.  If they have a hand in preparing it, they will be more excited about trying the finished product.

8.  Get kid friendly utensils, measuring cups, cutting boards and aprons.  It makes them feel like a real cook.

9.  Expect that things may go wrong. Cooking takes time and practice.  Remember that it’s as much about quality time together as the meal itself.  Guide them through it.  It gets easier every time.

10.  And most importantly, enjoy!

For more kid-friendly tips, recipes and cookbook stories, check out the “Little Belly Monster” book series.  Pizza and French Toast recipes now available online at Amazon, Indigo and Barnes & Noble.


My 9 year old’s first start to finish attempt at making scrambled eggs (with spinach and flax).

Little Belly Monster Kids’ Pizza – Modified!

Friday night.  It was a long week at work.  I wanted something easy and fast to make for dinner – it seemed like the perfect night to bust out the pizza book recipe.

I went through the fridge and cupboards to discover that I had all the base ingredients (I usually keep an extra stash on hand for last minute meals).  But realized I didn’t have all the favorite toppings.  Argh.

I started to think maybe I should make something else, until it occurred to me that I should just practice what I preach.  I could add “Other Tasty Toppings” to change up the recipe. Amazing that it took me a minute to get there.  It’s funny because when you find something that the kids like and are willing to eat, it’s so easy to get in a rut – don’t want to deviate too much or they could freak out (yes, it’s happened before).  But it’s pizza, right?  How can I go wrong?

So I went for it.  My Little Belly Monster (5 years) offered to help (I love that he enjoys cooking with me.  It breaks my heart.)  We added some different toppings – the cherry tomatoes being the oddest to him.  And into the oven it went.

The result?  Mild resistance at first but by the end of dinner, he and his sister Moh Belly said that they’d be willing to add tomatoes again.  Success!  And we decided that next pizza night, we’ll do a smorgasbord of different toppings so everyone can build their own. Only rule is that there is a minimum of 2 veggie toppings, plus spinach (my secret weapon). They can’t wait.  I love having my own little test kitchen.

Here’s a picture of the final recipe, actually taken by my 5 year old son.  He even insisted that I leave the green pepper and tomatoes in the back.  He liked the way they look.  Who is this kid?

The Monsters Made Us Breakfast-in-Bed!

What a great way to start the morning. After a long and busy week at work, Dado and I opted to sleep in this morning. Heard the monsters playing and rummaging around downstairs in my blissful half-sleep mode.

Next thing we know, we hear little feet coming up the stairs and the clanking of dishes. Big smiles on their faces as they walk into our room. Moh is holding breakfast and Little Belly is holding the newspaper. Amazing. I’m sure, subconsciously, there was some degree of self-preservation in there, since it was getting late and they couldn’t wait for breakfast any longer, but I’ll take it!

Moh (8) made us vanilla yogurt with flax seeds, raspberries and granola. We ran out of berries so she cut up pieces of apple on the side (her years of food training has taught her the importance of fruits and veggies). It was so cute and so tasty that I may never wake up early on the weekend again! But my question now is, at what age can I teach them how to make a cappuccino?