5 Meals Kids Can Make at Home

5 Meals Kids Can Make at Home

When considering age-appropriate chores, don’t overlook basic cooking skills for kids! Here are 5 dinner recipes for kids to cook, broken down by age.

  • By Leila Kalmbach
  • November 3, 2020

Kids are known for making a mess in the kitchen. No one wants to clean up a spilled bowl of lettuce or vacuum up dry rice in the middle of cooking dinner — or worse, risk cuts or burns to little fingers. So it’s no wonder many parents would rather get their kids started on homework before heading to cook dinner solo.

But getting kids started with cooking skills early has a ton of benefits. And there’s plenty kids can do to help out — and stay safe in the process. Encouraging kids to help out with age-appropriate tasks builds their cooking skills quickly, and makes them more interested in cooking going forward. A little extra mess now may mean that soon they’ll be able to prepare entire meals for the family!

As an added bonus for parents of picky eaters, kids are more likely to eat (or at least taste) meals they’ve helped put together. Demystifying the process and ingredients makes new foods less scary, so kids approach them with less caution. 

Sound like a win-win? We thought so! That’s why we’ve chosen 5 of our favorite kid- and adult-approved meals that include lots of tasks kids can do on their own or with help, and broken them down by age range, from toddlers all the way up to 12+. Kids in an older age group can do any of the tasks listed for the younger ages too, of course, but we’ve listed when these skills can start.

For more info about getting your kids involved in cooking, check out our How to Include Kids in the Kitchen infographic. And to learn exactly what cooking skills kids can begin practicing at what age, download our brand-new Skills Checklist, which breaks down basic cooking skills by category. Just remember, all kids are different, so use your best judgment about what your kids are capable of — this is just a start!

1. Avocado BLT

This classic BLTA is held together by creamy mashed avocado instead of mayonnaise. The bacon is baked on foil in the oven for a crispy, low-mess alternative to using a sizzling-hot pan – which also means kids have more opportunity to help out. The sandwich is served with a side of green beans, which are microwaved and then tossed in a sweet and tangy honey Dijon vinaigrette. 

What your toddler can help with:

  • Add pre-measured ingredients to vinaigrette
  • Pour vinaigrette onto green beans

What your 4-7 year old can help with:

  • Smash and spread avocado
  • Tear lettuce
  • Measure ingredients for vinaigrette
  • Microwave green beans

What your 8-11 year old can help with:

  • Spread bacon on pan
  • Slice tomatoes
  • Measure and mix vinaigrette (mason jars are awesome for this)
  • Microwave green beans
  • Toast bread
  • Assemble sandwiches

What your 12+ year old can help with:

  • Scale servings up or down
  • Weigh out green beans
  • Use scissors to trim green beans
  • Put bacon into and take out of oven

2. Rotisserie Chicken Chopped Salad

This rotisserie chicken salad is a Cook Smarts user favorite thanks to the smoky adobo honey vinaigrette, which coats shredded rotisserie chicken, red peppers, avocado, and romaine lettuce. But don’t let the complex flavors of the vinaigrette fool you – it’s quick and easy to put together, and many of the tasks involved can be done by kids. 

What your toddler can help with: 

  • Add pre-measured ingredients to vinaigrette
  • Hold down blender or immersion blender button with help

What your 4-7 year old can help with:

  • Shred rotisserie chicken meat
  • Chop romaine hearts with a butter / kid’s knife
  • Cube avocado with a butter / kid’s knife
  • Assemble salads

What your 8-11 year old can help with:

  • Take rotisserie chicken meat off the bone
  • Measure vinaigrette ingredients
  • Chop bell pepper and green onions with a steak knife
  • Warm chicken in the microwave
  • Divide and drizzle vinaigrette over salads

What your 12+ year old can help with:

  • Scale servings up or down
  • Blend vinaigrette with a blender or immersion blender
  • Reheat chicken in the oven

3. Caprese Burgers 

These burgers topped with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes are a summery twist on a family favorite. Our recipe has you seasoning the ground beef lightly so the caprese flavors can shine, and the burgers are paired with a spinach side salad topped with strawberries and almonds in a balsamic vinaigrette. Whether you’re cooking on a grill or stovetop, there’s plenty kids can do to help out with this dinner!

What your toddler can help with:

  • Count basil leaves (already picked off stem)
  • Pour pre-measured seasonings into ground beef
  • Add pre-measured ingredients to vinaigrette

What your 4-7 year old can help with:

  • Pick basil leaves off stem
  • Mix burger patties with seasonings
  • Form beef into patties
  • Slice strawberries, mozzarella, and tomatoes with butter / kid’s knife
  • Wash spinach
  • Assemble cooked burgers

What your 8-11 year old can help with:

  • Measure vinaigrette ingredients
  • Weigh ground beef
  • Measure seasonings for beef
  • Toss vinaigrette with salad

What your 12+ year old can help with:

  • Scale servings up or down
  • Cook burger patties on the grill or in a grill pan
  • Toast buns on the grill or in a grill pan

 

4. Panko-Crusted Fish Sandwiches

This panko-crusted fish sandwich with homemade tartar sauce is easier to make than it sounds – but just as delicious! Served with a side of crisp kale chips that will win over even the most ardent kale skeptic, this meal contains just a few basic ingredients. It gets its flavors from a touch of Cajun seasoning for a salty, mildly spicy kick, lemon juice for acidic balance, capers for a salty umami punch, and mayonnaise for creaminess. Paired with the crunch of panko, it’s an indulgent yet healthy meal your kids will be excited to help cook.

What your toddler can help with: 

  • Pour pre-measured tartar sauce ingredients into bowl
  • Stir tartar sauce (with help)

What your 4-7 year old can help with:

  • Wash kale and lettuce, and dry in a salad spinner (with supervision)
  • Tear kale and lettuce into pieces
  • Spread kale on a sheet pan
  • Toss kale with olive oil
  • Prepare breading stations, including measuring ingredients
  • Shake sealed egg and panko containers
  • Assemble sandwiches

What your 8-11 year old can help with:

  • Slice fish with a steak knife
  • Dip fish pieces into egg and panko
  • Chop capers with a steak knife
  • Measure and mix tartar sauce ingredients

What your 12+ year old can help with:

  • Scale servings up or down
  • Bake (and keep an eye on!) kale chips
  • Cook fish 
  • Warm buns in the oven

5. Baked Chicken Chimichangas

This lightened-up version of a deep-fried burrito is brushed with butter and baked in the oven for a crispy, melty, well-rounded meal that’s quick to prepare and well-loved by the Cook Smarts community. Filled with shredded rotisserie chicken, refried beans, salsa, and cheese, this meal passes the test for both flavor and health, and is served with a side of cumin-spiced roasted broccoli for a little extra of both.

What your toddler can help with: 

  • Wash broccoli (with help)
  • Pour pre-measured seasoning onto broccoli

What your 4-7 year old can help with:

  • Tear cilantro leaves
  • Toss broccoli with seasoning and spread on sheet pan
  • Shred rotisserie chicken
  • Spread refried beans on tortillas
  • Add toppings (chicken, salsa, and cheese)
  • Brush top and sides of chimichangas with melted butter
  • Top chimichangas with sour cream and cilantro

What your 8-11 year old can help with:

  • Chop broccoli with steak knife
  • Melt butter in the microwave
  • Measure broccoli seasoning

What your 12+ year old can help with:

  • Scale servings up or down
  • Fold chimichangas and move them to sheet pan
  • Bake chimichangas and broccoli

To learn more about what cooking skills kids can learn in each age group from 4 to 12+, download our free Cooking Skills Checklist for Kids! We break down skills by category to give you and your kids an idea of which skills they may be ready for in the areas of arithmetic, operation of tools and appliances, basic cooking knowledge, prepping and chopping, and doing the actual cooking. 

And for more helpful cooking tips and resources, sign up for our newsletter below. We send out weekly emails that will help you improve in the kitchen and live a healthier life, so join our community today and start cooking smarter!

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