By Lorraine Allen
Though we love to coddle our kids—because we adore them, of course—it’s still crucial for them to learn how to care for themselves early on. Even if you’re not ready to let your kid use a blender or chef’s knife alone, there are many simple dishes they can easily prepare, with just a little supervision, starting in elementary school. Practice cooking together whenever you can, and keep these ideas in your back pocket for nights when you are working late, aren’t feeling well, or just have your hands too full to do it all.
This is such a simple dish, and they can even be made in a microwave. Kids only need to shred cheese (a fun, quick job, or just use the pre-shredded variety), and spread it between two corn or flour tortillas. They can eat this cold, as a wrap, or melt the cheese in a hot pan for a minute on each side, or in a microwave oven for 30 seconds (or thereabouts). Show them how to scoop out and slice half an avocado and halve some grape tomatoes to complete this tasty, 5-minute dish.
Here’s something that requires only a minute or two to heat and assemble. Most hot dogs come pre-cooked so only need to be reheated until steaming, and they store well in the freezer, too. Kids can heat them up in a pan on the stove or a plate in the microwave, or by letting them simmer or sit in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then remove with tongs and place it on a bun (with ketchup or mustard, if they like)—and they’re done! They can enjoy this with raw baby carrots and cucumber sticks, or their favorite fruit.
Here’s a no-brainer: Stock your pantry with a few of your kids’ favorite soups, and show them how to use a can opener (or look for cans with easy-open lids), so they can easily heat (in the microwave, at 30-second intervals, until warm but not too hot to handle) and eat. But look for reduced-sodium version to stay on the healthier side. Keep crackers, croutons, and shredded cheese on hand for easy mix-ins, too.
Image ©iStock.com/Francisco Romero
Clean Up Cooking Messes With Bounty
A roll of Bounty paper towels on the counter will help your kids tackle ingredient spills with ease!
Frozen or refrigerated pizza dough is great to have on hand. Kids always have fun rolling and stretching the dough (or you can use English muffins or flour tortillas for the crust), and they can then layer it with whatever you have on hand: cheese, jarred or canned sauce, veggies, sliced ham, olives, and more. Older kids can learn how to preheat the oven and use oven mitts with care when sliding the baking trays in and out.
Baked Chicken and Veggies
This is a perfect one-pan meal for older kids to prep. Place chicken breasts, thighs, or drumsticks on a roasting pan (sprinkle with seasoned salt or herb blend) along with baby carrots and halved baby red potatoes. Bake at 400 degrees for about 45 minutes, turning once halfway through, until meat is cooked (show them how to read the temp using an instant-read thermometer). This makes a complete meal for the whole family—something any kid would be super proud to serve.
Do your kids help prepare any meals at home?
Lorraine is a freelance parenting and food writer, and she shares her cooking adventures and family recipes at FeedingLina.com. She lives in New York with her family and one squirrel-obsessed dog. Follow her