Cheerful black mom teaching daughter how to prepare salad.
Cheerful black mom teaching daughter how to prepare salad. Credit: Milkos via 123RF

Letting kids help cook meals is sometimes difficult when they’re not proficient in basic kitchen skills, so give them plenty of opportunities to practice being the chef with recipes that are easy, tasty, and low-stakes.

Of course, you know your children best, so make sure that you’re giving them appropriate responsibilities in the kitchen—it’s about stages, not ages—so don’t compare your own child’s readiness with the neighbor’s children.

No matter your child’s experience level in the kitchen, these five recipes will provide plenty of opportunities for practicing essential skills, building confidence, and feeling proud of a delicious meal.

Peanut Butter Pitas

Often, kids learning to cook want to make meals that sound exciting, so a classic PB&J sandwich isn’t really on their menu. Offer this peanut butter pita recipe as an alternative – they’ll practice the same skills and end up with a healthy, filling meal that’s perfect for lunch or dinner. Buy whole-wheat pitas and have kids practice separating them to find the pocket, then let them mix their peanut butter blend in a small bowl. Adding spices to the peanut butter can be tricky as kids often over-pour, but this is a good chance for them to practice their fine motor skills and measurement accuracy. Once they’ve spread the peanut butter inside the pita, they can enjoy them with some sliced apples.

Breakfast Parfaits

If your kids are ready for a breakfast recipe that’s slightly more complicated than cereal, try this berry and yogurt parfait. Kids as young as kindergarten can make this recipe independently from start to finish, so it’s a good way to build confidence in the kitchen. Kids can layer yogurt, fruit, and granola in a glass and then drizzle with honey on top for an added treat. If you have young kids, make sure the fruit is washed and sliced ahead of time for them to use, but older kids can learn these essential steps and practice independently.

Grilled cheese sandwich on rustic brown background.
Grilled cheese sandwich on rustic brown background. Credit: Olga Miltsova via 123RF

Grilled Cheese

There’s almost nothing more classic than grilled cheese, and kids will love the opportunity to make something that tastes this decadent. For older kids, the chance to independently use the stovetop is an important opportunity. Because grilled cheese is cooked slowly over low heat, they’ll need to be patient and methodical, both skills that need practice. Younger kids can help spread butter on the bread and arrange the cheese, so this meal can easily be a collaborative effort among siblings!

Turkey Pinwheels

Deli meat sandwiches are a quick, easy, and healthy lunch or dinner option, but kids often get tired of the same options every day. Let them practice some cooking skills while adding a little excitement to their meal with these easy turkey pinwheels. Kids old enough to use a moderately sharp knife independently can create this whole meal on their own. Start by using tortillas or flatbreads and have kids choose their favorite condiments to spread all the way to the edges; cream cheese is a classic and easy option. Next, layer turkey over about 2/3 of the tortilla and then greens or other ingredients in the middle. When kids are in charge of making the food, they’re often more likely to incorporate vegetables, so make sure to have some available for this recipe. Finally, have your kids practice rolling the tortilla tightly then cutting into pinwheel slices (you can help cut for the younger crowd).

Tortilla Pizzas

Kids love pizza, so why not capitalize on their enthusiasm by teaching them how to make this easy tortilla version? Start with a bag of shredded pizza cheese and store-bought tomato sauce to make the process easy for even the youngest crowd. Let kids pour the sauce and spread it over a tortilla themselves – learning how much is too much is an important lesson in cooking. Also, give them space to sprinkle as much cheese as they’d like – they’ll learn if it’s too much when it bubbles over the edge later! Let each child choose their own special toppings, then bake. Older kids can either cook these on the stovetop with minimal supervision or bake them in the oven for about 8 minutes, while younger kids can begin practicing how to flip tortillas in a skillet and basic oven safety.

After mastering these recipes, your children will be ready to take on even more delicious and impressive meals for the next family dinner!