Plant-Packed Recipe Inspiration For Kids Of Any Age

Whether your kids are just old enough to stand on stepstools to “help” in the kitchen or returning from college for winter break, encouraging children to get involved in the kitchen is important for developing fundamental life skills. It’s also a way to bond when you find yourself with extra time together. And, perhaps most importantly, it can be FUN!

Using the Michigan Apple Retail Dietitian Kit’s age-to-skill guidelines, here are simple ideas to have fun in the kitchen with kids at any age with produce-packed recipe inspirations.

Ages 3-5: Eager Helpers

Mixing and mashing is the name of the game for this hands-on age group, so get Eager Helpers involved by mashing bananas for muffins or breads; stirring up dried fruit and whole grains for trail mix; or tearing apart leafy lettuce for a dinner salad. Incorporate food safety lessons while working in the kitchen too, such as washing hands before cooking and rinsing fresh produce before preparing it.

Recipe Inspiration: Squeezing, squishing and mashing? Yes, please with this Banana Pudding in a Bag

Ages 5-7: School Age Assistants

Around the first few years of grade school, this age level can do more in the kitchen than you might think. Encourage School Age Assistants to read recipes, measure out ingredients and even chop certain foods using child-safe knives – starting with softer foods before mastering harder options like carrots and onions. Talk about where ingredients come from and how they’re grown; and encourage them to use all five senses when exploring fruits and vegetables. How does it smell, look, taste, feel and sound?

Recipe Inspiration: Measuring ingredients and chopping veggies makes this Hearty Vegetable Soup the perfect recipe to make with kids on a cold night.

Ages 8-12: Up & Coming Cooks

Becoming more independent, Up and Coming Cooks can handle increasingly difficult skills, like cracking eggs, peeling veggies or even following and preparing basic recipes on their own. As children get more confident in the kitchen, it’s important to set rules to keep them safe so they know what is and is not allowed for them to do on their own – like using knives, pulling food from a hot oven or using equipment like blenders or mixers.

Recipe Inspiration: Shredding vegetables and cracking eggs are slightly more complex skills that this age group can handle with this Carrot Zucchini Bread.

Ages 13 & Up: Young Chefs

After basic skills have been mastered, Young Chefs can begin refining their culinary skills through more complex recipes. Once an adult feels the child is ready, this age group can generally start using the stovetop; work with traditional knives and operate small appliances, like microwaves and mixers, with limited supervision. Food safety should continue to be stressed upon, such as keeping raw meats away from ready-to-eat foods, as well as other important culinary practices, such as mise en place (having all ingredients in order before beginning a recipe) and kitchen clean-up skills.

Recipe Inspiration: Challenge your chef to create dinner for the family with these Sheet Pan Fajitas. For dessert, Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies always do the trick!

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