Life Lessons

Cooking with kids

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

My mom was a teacher, so during our grade school and junior high years, my siblings and I would often arrive home at least an hour before she did. We’d be hungry, and would slap together peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches or snack on leftovers—always with the mantra to not spoil our dinners in the back of our minds.

When I was about 10 or 11, I got ambitious and decided I’d fry a few pieces of after-school bacon. Unfortunately, I walked away from the too-hot pan at a critical moment, and when I returned, a small grease fire was in progress. I panicked, and for some inane reason, decided the carpeted floor just outside the kitchen was the best place to put the cast-iron skillet.

We’d been told not to use the stove without parental supervision, so I had no choice but to admit my transgression as soon as my mom walked through the door (as if the pan-sized scorch mark on the carpet wouldn’t have given me away).

I did get in trouble for almost burning the house down, but my parents also saw I was interested in learning how to cook, and took the time to teach me a few tips. “Clean as you go,” “always check to make sure the stove is off before you walk away,” and “taste the food you’re making” are three that have stuck with me to this day.

When it comes to cooking with kids, however, there are many ways to incorporate them into your recipe routines. Nutritionist Julie Negrin says she’s taught kids as young as 2 years old how to help make dinner.

“Mini chefs are more likely to eat what they make, and become more adventurous about trying new foods,” she says. “By the age of 8, they can make simple meals such as scrambled eggs. By 10 years old, they can help prepare dinner before you get home from work.”

Among the directives she offers are to create a kids’ cooking station, start them off with small tasks (stirring, rinsing off vegetables), give yourself plenty of time, create the menu together (whether it’s finding recipes or grocery shopping), keep cleaning equipment close by, praise them for their hard work, sign them up for cooking classes—in addition to the Kids Cooking Camp listed here, go to for details about “Kids Can Cook” classes happening in July—and accept that not all kids want to be chefs.

“Your non-cooking kids can still contribute to the meal by washing produce, cleaning off cans, setting the table, folding napkins, deciding which platters to use, garnishing the dishes, clearing the table and tasting each dish to determine if it needs additional seasoning,” she says.

The recipe included here for Italian ice popsicles is a good example of an easy how-to with tasty side effects. All you need are some locally procured raspberries, fresh mint leaves, a lemon and simple syrup. I hope it goes without saying that an adult should keep an eye on the stove while the water boils.


Classic Italian Ice Popsicles


1 (12-ounce) bag, or 1 1/2 cups raspberries (defrost if frozen)
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (from one lemon)
3 or 4 tablespoons simple syrup

Simple syrup

1/4 cup cold water
1/2 cup sugar


Simple Syrup: In a saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for five minutes, until the sugar has dissolved. Take pan off heat and cool the syrup. Any extra syrup can be saved in an airtight container.

In a blender, combine the raspberries and the mint. Puree until combined. Add the lemon juice and three tablespoons of the simple syrup. Blend to combine. Taste the mixture and add the remaining one tablespoon of simple syrup if you like. Spoon the mixture into an ice cube tray and freeze for approximately 30 minutes, or until partially frozen. Insert the wooden sticks and return trays to the freezer for another three to five hours.

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