Memories of cooking in the kitchen of my childhood home are some of my favorite. My mom was a constant presence in there and I loved to be with her, especially when she made chocolate chip cookies. I remember standing on a stool, adding the ingredients one by one to the bowl and being amazed that combining these elements would create delicious cookies. Later on, when I got to control the speed switch on the mixer, there was a whole new level of fun to be had. I definitely had my share of cooking disasters, including an instance where I replaced the sugar with salt in a monster cookie recipe. They were horrid! But I was always met with support and encouragement to try again, and now cooking and baking homemade food for myself and my family is one of my favorite skills and one I want to encourage my children to learn and develop.
Baking cookies is how I started in the kitchen, and it’s the same way I started with my own children. I’ve learned it’s best to use a simple, straight-forward recipe so the children are almost constantly engaged. Lag times or sit-and-wait steps are hard on short attention spans. However, with the promise that there will be something sweet at the end, they are always excited to help.
Even if your goal is not to create skilled kitchen wizards, baking or cooking is a great way to actively involve children in the kitchen while spending quality time together. The youngest children can do simple steps like dumping pre-measured ingredients in the bowl, cutting out cookies, decorating unbaked or baked cookies, stirring and batter-tasting quality control. Older children will enjoy figuring out how to sufficiently measure the ingredients, crack the eggs, scoop cooled cookies from the pan to the cooling rack and control the mixer speed. The oldest children will enjoy more complex recipes with more challenging steps and procedures. They too will excel in recipes with batter separation and more creative elements like tinting and layers. They can also be of assistance with other types of kitchen tools.
While cooking can be filled with fun, there are a few safety precautions. If working on the stove, remind little ones repeatedly about the heat—they don't generally understand how hot things can become. Also, mixers are a great help in the kitchen, but their power can be detrimental to non-food items. Remind helpers often to keep fingers, limbs and hair far away from the mechanism to assure safety.
Here is an easy no-bake cookie recipe to start with. It doesn’t take long to put together, and there is no baking required!
1 stick butter
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 cup peanut butter
3 cups rolled oats
1. In a pot over medium heat, melt the butter.
2. Add in the sugar, milk and cocoa. Boil for 1 minute.
3. Stir in the peanut butter until smooth.
4. Then add the oatmeal, stirring until well combined.