How To Survive Cooking With Your Kids

Involving my kids in the kitchen never really felt like a good idea to me.  Honestly, it seemed like it would create a big mess.  Aside from looking in the pantry for snacks or grabbing a drink from the refrigerator, they rarely even step foot in there (yeah, that Christmas card that showed my boys “baking” cookies was totally staged).  Recently, when my amazing cousin was babysitting for my two boys, she sent me pictures of them making cupcakes together.  Was she crazy?  But my kids were so happy and excited about it!  I figured I could try it out – we could pick out recipes together, write out a shopping list, cook something new, and maybe my completely picky kids would actually eat something.

The first step was to find some new recipes that would be kid-friendly and easy to prepare.  Of course, as a children’s librarian, my first resource is always the library!  Mercer County Library System has an abundance of cookbooks, especially those targeted to children.  My older son browsed the shelves with me one day.  The cover photo and pictures inside were very important and all the children’s cookbooks were filled with tons of brightly colored pictures.  It was fun bringing the books home and going through them with my boys to have them choose a few recipes they would like to try.

Attempt #1:  Baking bread

One of the first things that both my kids agreed that they wanted to try was to bake their own bread.  I have never made bread before and was surprised they wanted to since they rarely ever eat it willingly.  I figured it might work since kneading dough seemed like playing with Playdoh, which my younger son loves.  We gathered the ingredients and got ready to bake.  It was fun to see how differently my sons approached it.  My older son was very excited about the whole process.  He loved reading the recipe, measuring and adding ingredients, and “getting his hands dirty” mixing and kneading.  My younger son was the opposite.  He liked adding the flour and oil, but when it came time to knead the dough, he wanted nothing to do with it (so much for my analogy!). We made the dough into loaf-like shapes, let it rise, and finally baked them in the oven.  I was kind of nervous that it would not work and our cooking experiment would be a big failure.  I was pleasantly surprised with our results!  The bread was actually edible (well, to most of us - my younger son took one bite and declared it “gross”).  My older son was so proud of his creation.  He loved the bread, ate two pieces immediately, and took some in his lunch the next day, proudly telling his friends he made it “with his own two hands.”  Attempt #1 was a success, at least for the big kid!

Attempt #2:  Making a smoothie with a 4-year-old

My kids have never been big fruit eaters, especially my youngest.   He does love drinking ready-made strawberry yogurt drinks, though.  I know they are full of sugar but I’m honestly just happy he drinks something that contains a fruit.  When looking through the cookbooks, we found a recipe for a strawberry smoothie that he actually agreed to try!  The recipe was simple and straightforward.  I washed the strawberries and he added them to the pitcher (after smelling each one first).  He has not touched a banana since he was a baby, so I was shocked that he wanted to peel it!  After adding all the ingredients and blending it up, he was so excited to try it.  How did it go?  He took two sips, then declared he wanted his regular store bought strawberry drink.  But still, I am so happy (and surprised) that I got him to try it!  I’m hoping the more he helps, the more he will try.  Attempt #2 was a partial success.


MCLS is a great resource and makes it very easy to find new recipes to try.  The library shelves were fun to browse through (check under the call number 641).  Some of our favorite juvenile cookbooks to look through include:

Look, I’m a Cook
Bright photographs (plus pictures of each ingredient in every recipe) and very easy to follow directions made this one of our favorites.  This is where we found the bread recipe we tried.

Cooking Step by Step
Published this year, kids will be drawn to this book by its kid-friendly recipes.  This book contains a variety of recipes as well as photographs of each step.

Shopkins Shoppies.  Let’s Get Cooking
My youngest immediately wanted to look through this book strictly because of Shopkins!  Fans of these toys should take a look at the adorable recipes (this is where we found the strawberry smoothie recipe).

Eat Your Greens, Reds, Yellows and Purples
This book contains all vegetarian recipes and has great pictures as well as recipes to help your little ones “eat a rainbow.”

Plant, Cook, Eat!
This book combines gardening and cooking, showing how to grow vegetables, then recipes that use them.  My kids are excited to start a garden this summer so this book will be a great help.

For older kids and those with less-picky tastes than my children, bring your kids over to browse the adult non-fiction section (call number 641).  The adult cookbook section at the Lawrence Branch is extensive and amazing.  Most cookbooks have lots of pictures, which kids love.  One of our favorites is the “Pioneer Woman” Ree Drummond, who is known for her pictures of step-by-step recipes.  MCLS owns several of her cookbooks which can be found in our catalog.

There are so many great benefits to cooking with your kids.  Being a former scientist, cooking always feels like a science experiment.  You follow the directions, measure and add ingredients, and hope for good results.  For kids (and adults), cooking involves using all five senses, which really makes it interesting and fun.  My kids were also much more likely to try something new if they had a hand in making it - I guarantee my little guy would not have even tasted the smoothie if I had just handed it to him.

This will be a great project for the summer and hopefully we can try out some new recipes (and new food).  My advice is to start small and don’t think of the potential mess.  Instead, think of the fun you can have together as a family.  Stop by the library and browse the shelves for some new ideas!

- Miss Lauren, Lawrence Branch


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