Mini Cooks: A recipe for success

Every Wednesday for the next six weeks join in for a fresh collaborative series called Mini Cooks. I'm teaming up with Sheri of Donuts, Dresses, and Dirt and Joy of Frock Files to explore the culinary world through the lens of children! We'll be offering you simple recipes and cooking adventures that you can do with your children, nieces/nephews, neighbors, and more.

We've been cooking up (pun intended) a fabulous series to give you practical recipes as well as helpful ways that children in your kitchen can get involved, learn important skills, and grow to love the foods they create. I'm delighted to kick us off with five ideas on how to enjoy time in the kitchen with your mini cooks!


Cooking is more comfortable when the tools of the trade fit your size. Take a look at your drawer or canister of kitchen gadgets and see what might work best for little hands. Utensils need not be used as they were originally intended... a brightly colored measuring spoon can work to mix ingredients and playful plastic cups can be a great substitute for larger adult measuring cups. Or maybe make a splurge for a magenta spatula or little egg whisk to let your littles know that they were thought of, too, in the process of food preparation.

Be sure they have a safe and secure way to reach countertops or consider taking the cooking process down to their height at a kitchen table or play table.

Dress up is always fun so consider if mini aprons and chef hats might be your thing!

Perhaps the aspect that keeps our children out of the kitchen more than any other is safety. Ovens, ranges, knives, and processors present very real concerns. Our job as the big chefs, if you will, is to make sure the space is set up for success and that we monitor mini cooks in the kitchen at all times.

First, be sure to alert children of possible dangers and help them understand safety zones. Model good locations to stand when cooking by the range, opening the oven door, or flipping on the griddle. Where are hot spots? What is breakable?

Remember to teach clean habits during the prep and clean up processes.

Of course, certain processes are not child appropriate, and mini cooks need to understand this, too. Children can still be engaged while adults take on the more risky elements.

This one I love. When my children are really involved and enjoying our food prep, it's a direct result of the pre-planning I did to make it a success. Having all of the pots, pans, bowls and tools washed and ready to use; thinking through the preparation process and what ages can handle what skills; talking with my children about what recipes they want to try.

In our house, it's a rite of passage to be able to use the hand-held mixer. And from the point that someone can stand on their own, my children know that they are welcome to hold the measuring cup over the bowl. My oldest, M, now 9 is excited to have the cutting board and dicing responsibilities now. Think early and often invitations to participate!

Forgive this former teacher, but I cannot pass up the amazing teachable moments found in the kitchen. From the history of recipes to the geography of the people who created them to the mathematics of measurement. From nutrition and agricultural learning to business and art lessons, the kitchen can become the most fertile learning ground in your house. Let it be!

Every child has her or his own limit on the messy they are willing to do. My younger daughter, C,  embraces and wears all things sloppy as she bakes. My son wants his hands clean as soon as they get wet. And neither perspective is good or bad. Try to expose your children to both sides. Engage in the messiness of goopy recipes that require hands on and use the tongs and scoops that can keep hands clean.

And remember that floors, sinks, counters, ovens, and even ponytails can be cleaned so that your mini cook can feel good making the necessary messes for his or her masterpiece!

Join us next Wednesday as Joy brings us a simple breakfast treat to entice your mini cooks into the kitchen.

Big thanks to Joy and Sheri for your incredible creative touch!

xoxo, MJ