We talk about how important it is for us to have an ergonomic work space. The same goes for our kids when they are learning in the kitchen. It’s super important that are tall enough to reach the counter and use the tools safely. Since we can’t stretch them to be taller (my dad used to always tell me he would stretch me to get taller!), we have to give them a step stool or chair that they can use to get to the right height.

There are a lot of step stools out there. We use the super simple folding one that fits nicely by the fridge. Our kitchen is teeny tiny, so small space storage is a must for us. There are also ones that convert from step stool to high chair. Pick what is best for your family and you kiddo.

The last thing we want is a kiddo reaching for something on the counter and grabbing something they didn’t expect!

This post contains affiliate links that will pay me a small amount if you make a purchase. Photo credit: Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Three Letter Word

FUN. Other than safety, I cannot think of a more important word, or concept, when working with kids in the kitchen.

This word is the gateway to so much. It enables everyone to relax and enjoy what is happening in the most frequented room of the house. It engages a child’s mind, turning it into elastic, stretching to soak up the new info being presented. It creates an atmosphere of joy; a space where love can happen.

Do keep in mind that fun for our little helpers may be vastly different than what we deem as fun. They might push back on something you thought would be fun. That’s okay, ask how they would like to change it. Their insight is always keen and because they have not yet accepted the filters society places on them, they are likely to give you an honest answer. Engage them in discussion to further understand their perspective, it’s always a fun rabbit hole to run down.

Things my children find fun…

…washing dishes.

…organizing the utensil drawer.

…measuring ingredients before cooking.

…spraying down and cleaning counters and kitchen table.

…setting the kitchen table (their own way, of course!).

…organizing the food on their plate into a “picture”.

…putting groceries in the pantry.

Sweet Tooth

I love cookies. I love everything about them. Making them, eating the dough, watching them in the oven, eating them, freezing dough for a treat. They are satisfying on so many levels.

My children agree whole heatedly with my thoughts on cookies. We love pulling out the mixer and whipping up a double batch; half for baking now, half for freezing.

Kids can help with everything in this recipe except for taking the baking sheets out of the oven. In our house, we prepare all the ingredients and place them on the counter before pulling the mixer out. Once the mixer is out, we take turns adding the ingredients and operating the mixer. One safety note here – kids like to look into the mixer to see what is happening. I always pull my girls’ hair back so it can’t get tangled in the beater and I employ the strict “hands-off” rule for the speed switch.

Who operates the mixer is always a great question. For younger kids, always the adult. My 6 year olds have the option to if they have the listening ears and attitude to match. If there is sass or attitude, I share my perspective and explain that for safety I’ll be the one operating the controls. That alone is usually enough to shape them up.

A cookie baller is a fun tool for the kids to use, althogh their hands may tire easily. If you don’t have a cookie baller, two spoons do the trick and the kids can use clean hands to roll the cookies into balls before baking.

P.S – these cookies freeze well before or after baking!

Roll It Up!

As adults, I find that I prefer to get my food and get on with my day. Children are the exact opposite. They let the creative juices flow and turn food into art. It’s a beautiful process and a great reminder for us adult types to slow down and enjoy the world. Kids are so wise, we have so much we can learn from them.

This is a snack that will let them be creative and artistic. It’s quite simple as long as you lay all the options out at the beginning. Seek input from the little hands to know what they want in their pinwheel. Encourage them to be realistic since they’ll have to roll it up in a tight log. In my house, nothing trips the kids off line faster than not being able to get the outcome they are looking for. Keeping the ingredients to a minimum in the roll will help them get a good, tight roll and be able to cut it into beautiful pinwheels.

Might as well make one for yourself while you are at it….they might need an example, after all!

How young?

I say no child is too young to be in the kitchen. Even babies. Yes, babies. If they can sit in a bouncy seat then can be in the kitchen helping. If they can sit in a bumbo, even better.

My kids have been helping me cook since they were teeny tiny. My oldest joined me on the counter in his bumbo and sucked on a wooden spoon. My twins had bouncy seats in the kitchen and listened to me tell them what I was doing. We’ve been in the kitchen since day one. And it’s paid off. My oldest is now making dinner from start to finish on his own – he’s 9. His little sisters are into baking and will whip out a loaf of bread by themselves, only asking me to help with ingredients and the oven.

When we trot through the grocery store, I tell them everything we are getting and what we’ll use it for. This does three things; it lets them know what they can expect for upcoming meals, it allows them to have some input about snacks and other more free flowing food, and it keeps me honest. I can’t drop a bag of peppermint patties in the cart without a good reason. They’ll call me on it and expect me to share them. Ha! That’s one thing that doesn’t get shared, they are all mine.

Start the life long habit of loving healthy food early by engaging them in the process early. Share what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what the outcome will be. You might be shocked at how much they retain and how happy they are to come back and help next time!

Cucumber Sandwich Snack Time

Meal time with kids can be super easy one day and super hard the next….and it seems like nothing has changed. This happens in my house and I’ve learned to just roll with it, instead of letting it make me grumpy (like it used to!). One of the steps I have taken to make snacks easier is to give the kids almost full control of what they are making. My kids are big enough they can make these mini sandwiches without any help from. Smaller kids may need help with cutting the ham into squares.

All you’ll need to make this a successful snack is a vegetable peeler, a cutting board, a small, kid-sized knife, a crinkle cutter (for those that aren’t using a knife), and the ingredients.

The kids love to peel fruit and it is a great activity to increase eye-hand coordination. The cucumber is soft enough it will cut easily, even for very little hands.

Feel free to mix up the meat based on what your kids loves. This one’s a winner!

Making Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti and sauce is a meal that kids can make from start to finish. It’s pretty cool to see the smile on their face when the fam sits down to the table and enjoys their hard work!

Here’s the recipe I have been using for years. I wrote it down once I found the combination I loved, but I stray from it every time I make it. I just let the spices guide me as portion them out…and the kids do the same!

Hand Bread

Kneading bread by hand isn’t my favorite task in the world, that’s why I have a bread machine. Tell a kid that they get to make bread and then pull out a bread machine….pppppffffffffttttttttttt. They won’t buy it, much to my chagrin.

That’s why we do hand bread in our house, and by “we”, I mean the kids make it! It’ not nearly as beautiful as what comes out of the machine, nor is it as fluffy as it could be if I took the time to knead it properly, but, really, who cares?! They love it and it certainly make sandwiches at lunch time that much easier. They’ll ALWAYS eat a piece of hand bread.

I’ve included ingredients in the recipe if you want to make it along with the video!

To plan everything out, you’ll need:

1 1/2 cup bread flour, 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, 1 cup oats, 1 1/2 teaspoon yeast, 3 tablespoon dry milk, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 tablespoons honey, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 cup water.

Happy Kneading!

What cooking with kids really means

Bringing your little people into the kitchen is a lot of fun, and it can mean some adjustments for the us, the well-trained, habit-formed adults. They really don’t care if we want the counter spotless or that cleaning spaghetti sauce off the back of the stove is hard work. They really just want to learn about life and the world around them. Food is a great way to share a life skill and teach inquisitive minds about the world. Where food comes from, how it gets to your house, and the differences in foods that look the same are some conversation starters. Just throw a simple fact out there and watch the questions start to flow. In my house it always seems the questions are so logical yet so profound. There is so much conversation to be had around the concept of food and so many learning opportunities for little minds to soak up!

Once you have taken that deep breath (or maybe kids in the kitchen is nothing new), there are couple of realities to look at. Your kitchen won’t be the same again. It will be filled with love and giggles, the conversation will be endless, and the amount of learning that takes place will be fantastic.

The graphic below is a quick overview of the things I thought were the most important to keep in mind as you cook with kids. I’ll have more about each of these topics in upcoming posts.

Until then, happy cooking and have fun!

Fancy Dogs

I’m a big fan of kids eating real food, and I am also a mom who realizes that isn’t always reality. Would I love it if my kids never ate a hot dog or fast food again? Yes! Will that happen? No! And i am completely okay with that.

Hot dogs are pretty low on my list, that’s probably why my kids love them beyond words. It also turns out, they can be a lot of fun, as you’ll soon see here.

I recommend that this is something for bigger kids to try. I don’t recommend it for little hands. You know your kids best, you’ll know if they can do this!

Kids Making Side Dishes

I almost always have a side kick in the kitchen with me. It’s a rare moment when they aren’t dying to help out with something. Taking advantage of that opportunity is a must. It’s our moment to connect, teach them something, and I can hand one of my duties to an eager pair of helping hands.

My oldest has started making full dinners on his own, but his sisters aren’t quite there yet. They do make some great side dishes though. All they need is some basic guidance and they are off to the races. By basic guidance, I mean a verbal explanation with a repeat back of what they heard, and I help lay out all of the ingredients. I typically watch from afar and don’t offer guidance unless I must. It always tastes delicious and they are more likely to eat what they make!

This dish is one of my all time favorites. It’s simple, it delicious, and it can be made in a variety of ways to fit your schedule. The instructions here say to pop it in the oven. You can also stir it on the stove top or freeze it and then cook it from frozen.

Happy green bean cooking!

Download the recipe here.

Fruit Skewers

When my kids grow, they grow. And this means they are eating the whole house and then are instantly hungry again. I can’t keep enough food in them. When they need a snack in between the snacks, I send them to the fruit bowl. We all know that whole fruit is boring, though. So booooorrrrring. We’re mixing it up and making it fun and yummy with some super simple fruit skewers.

They can make these and eat them right away or you can toss them in the freezer for a cool treat. Sometimes frozen things go down the hatch so much easier than cooked. Frozen green peas anyone?!

Guess That Spice!

Almost every dish we make has some sort of spice in it. It is pretty easy for me to get set on auto-pilot and forget to set up one of the kids’ favorite helping jobs. All it takes is a some small stainless prep bowls. Measure the spices into the bowl – or the kids can do it – and place them all on the counter. The kids can grab them easily and dump them in. For some extra fun, have them guess the spice before they dump them in. We are starting to do this game more. The kids are figuring out which spice is which. If nothing else it’s pretty entertaining to see how their little brains work when assigning names to spices!

Teach me, please.

They might throw a hissy fit. They might kick and punch. They might yell and argue. Despite all of this kids do enjoy food and this is their way of asking for some control over it.

In the grand scheme of things, there are very few things that kids have any control over. Why not offer them some autonomy in the world of food? Here’s how KnifeForkSpoon kids get some control over their food:

  • they help make the dinner menu
  • shopping for ingredients is a family affair
  • prepping and cooking meals has particpation by all
  • cleaning the table before dinner, setting the table, and clearing the table after dinner are chores that we all take turns doing.

We offer them other options, too. They get to design the layout of their plate, they have the option to be fully responsible for a meal, they can plan meals with the help of a cookbook, and so much more! Stay tuned for more details on each of these topics!

Teach me to cook!
every child loves to learn. lets take this opportunity to teach them!

Feel free to download this file here.

Kitchen Rules

Nothing frustrates kids more than telling them “no”, “stop”, “don’t do that”, or some variation of that. Be honest and upfront with them that working in the kitchen is a job and jobs have rules. Establish them upfront and you’ll be able to enforce them so much easier. They might be grumpster dumpster when you enforce it, but they will secretly love that you gave them a boundary. That’s what being a kids is all about, after all. Gotta find all the boundaries!

Here’s the list we use at the KnifeForkSpoon house:

Kitchen Rules
It’s our job to keep kids safe in the kitchen. Here’s the list of rules we always start with.

Feel free to download this page here.

School’s out!

Oh, yeah, it’s March and school is not in session. It’s a new thing and we can all adapt. We will have frequent posts about how to use the kitchen to be a fun place for the whole family, to be a distraction when we are all melting down, and to be a place of learning.

If you are looking for a sweet treat, look no further. This morning KnifeForkSpoon kids made jello for the first time. They all had a great time. Although, I dare say, they had way more fun sneaking into the fridge to steal spoonfuls when mom wasn’t looking!!

Check out our shopping page to get your hands on some of the favorite tools we used to make this treat!

For this recipe, our favorites are:

I have a new website…again!

Hi! I am back in the world of websites! A few months ago my web page ate itself and I had no desire to make a new one. That feeling has passed and I am finding my groove again. It’s safe to say the only constant these days is change!

Since we are getting back in the groove, I’m going to share a sneak peek at an e-book I am writing. The topic? Cooking with kids! It’s something that happens every day in my house and one of my favorite classes to teach.

Take a peek!

Recipes will be back shortly…