Little hands are a big help in the kitchen

Pass down the passion for cooking to your children

Every year, after the back-to-school craze has quieted down, I look forward to our annual apple picking trip. It’s always a cozy, leaves-crunching-under-your-feet, time-to-dig-out-the-sweatshirts, cool-sunlight-on-your-face kind of day. We go to our favorite orchard, pose for pictures by the scarecrow and fill up bags upon bags of apples.

Caramel apples made to order!

Half the fun is deciding what to do with those apples once we get home. The family time at the orchard is priceless, but why let it stop there?
Planning some kid-friendly cooking projects is a great way to extend that closeness.

Teach basic skills
There are many great reasons to cook with your kids. So many lessons can be learned like math (measurements, fractions, counting, sequencing), vocabulary (which is the peeler, which is the spatula?) and fine motor skills (chop, chop). Kids are also much more likely to try a new food if they’ve helped make it. As a child enjoys cooking with the family, confidence in the kitchen develops, leading to new skills and a sense of pride. To get started, set up each child with his own work space, kid-friendly tools, apron and provide close supervision.

Make kid-friendly meals
Whether you’re looking for a special breakfast treat or an after-dinner indulgence, Penny’s Apple Brown Sugar Coffee Cake is a delicious way to use up some of those apples. Made with either traditional or gluten-free flour, kids can help every step of the way. Little kids can help count, scoop and mix ingredients, while big kids can slice apples with a butter knife, measure ingredients and pour the batter right into the pan. This special recipe, from one of my favorite cookbooks, “Cooking for Isaiah,” is not to be missed. If you’re looking for additional kid-friendly recipes, especially ones that are gluten or dairy-free, check out the author’s blog, Silvana's Kitchen.

Looking for a great farm in your area?

When you’re hungry for lunch, an apple-grilled cheese or apple-cheese tortilla is another great way to add some crunch to your day.  Let little kids count apples and bread slices, then layer ingredients.  Bigger kids can use a butter knife to cut apples and cheese into thin slices. Adults should grill the sandwiches (or supervise older children).

Get your fill of apple sauce!
Finally, a fragrant, bubbling pot of apple sauce is a great way to use up those final apples, especially those which have developed soft spots while waiting to be eaten. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make and how much your family will enjoy making it. Little kids can help weigh apples, pile slices into the pot and stir in spices and sugar. Big kids can carefully peel and chop, stir the pot and help transfer cooled applesauce into containers.