Making (Messy!) Memories

May 20, 2024 | Katy Moscoso

kids helping in the kitchen

I have fond memories of cooking and baking with my mom as a child. Some of my favorite kitchen memories include baking muffins and cookies, and making homemade beach plum jelly with fruit we would handpick from the beach. Being one of four kids, spending time with my mom in the kitchen allowed for quality one on one time, and now that I have children of my own, I see just how valuable that time can be.

Being in the kitchen with young kids can seem like a daunting task, but I have found a variety of ways to include both of my girls (5 years and 21 months) while cooking and baking. My five-year-old loves sweets so anytime I pull out baking supplies from the pantry she comes running with her kitchen stool to help. She can help with a lot of tasks now that she is older, which has been fun to help build on her cooking skills. We have been working on measuring dry and wet ingredients, cracking eggs, grating cheese and vegetables, and scooping mixed ingredients into muffin pans and on baking sheets. Reading recipes together is a great way to practice numbers and learn new words. I have also found that she will be a bit more adventurous trying new foods when she has buy-in on what we make and helps prepare the recipes. A few of our favorite recipes to make that include multiple age-appropriate tasks for her are: Chocolate Surprise Cupcakes, Chocolate Chip Zucchini Muffins and Fruit Pizza.

My younger daughter is just shy of two years old and wants to do everything like her older sister. Including her while baking and cooking can get pretty messy! To keep her entertained, I often give her a few bowls and spoons with leftover ingredients to measure and stir on her own. It may not seem like a lot, but it’s helping her hand eye coordination and setting a foundation for basic cooking skills. Check out this great video for additional tips on how to include kids of all ages in food prep and cooking.

Because cooking with young kids can get a little messy, it’s helpful to factor in extra time for making the recipes and cleaning up. Even on days when my kids don’t want to help, having them in the kitchen while I narrate what I am doing is still providing opportunities for them to learn. I loved spending time with my mom in the kitchen and I am hoping that by including my girls when preparing and making recipes I am creating those core memories with them, too!

Katy Moscoso

Katy Moscoso is a Program Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. As a mom to both a toddler and a preschooler, Katy loves trying new recipes that are quick and versatile. Cooking meals that can provide leftovers to fill her fridge and freezer is a win during this busy season!

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