I have a personal rule when it comes to my kids: I always say yes when they ask to help with cooking. I don't always invite them to help with dinner, but if they peek their head in the door and ask to help I always say yes. Sometimes that means dinner takes 10, 15, even 20 minutes longer to get on the table, but we always learn something — even if it's just to make sure the lid is tightly sealed on the paprika.
My 6-year-old has fully embraced being my sous-chef-in-training and cooks along with me two or three nights a week. Here are 10 of our go-to dinner recipes to cook together.
This particular teriyaki bowl recipe has a distinct advantage of being pulled together with a number of shortcuts including precooked meatballs, quick-cooking udon, and frozen vegetables. This means that your even your littlest kids can help without having to bust out a knife.
How kids can help: Have your tiny chef fill the water pot (place it in the sink under the faucet and let them turn on the water) for the udon noodles and whisk together the sauce ingredients. Older kids can help add the noodles and vegetables to the hot water and mix everything together.
Try to think of this as risotto for beginners — its cooks quickly but the results are creamy and delicious, much like another stovetop favorite of kids (hint: it rhymes with mac and sneeze).
How kids can help: Grating is the kid's number-one job here, so make such you have plenty of cheese because they will steal a bite or two in the process.
My 6-year-old's favorite green vegetable is broccoli, especially when it's roasted, which is where this recipe was born from. The warm broccoli with cool, creamy cheese and pickled vegetables on crusty bread is adored by kids and adults in our house.
How kids can help: Get your kids to help hack up the broccoli for roasting and mix up the mayo for these subs. Then they can help layer ingredients on the bread when it's time to assemble.
An easy way to find recipes for cooking with your kids is to look for ones with minimal ingredients. (Bonus points if one or more is a shortcut ingredient.) This creamy, hearty soup can be made with frozen hash browns, so there's very little chopping for your tiny cook.
How kids can help: Give your tiniest chef scissors to cut the bacon and green onions. Older kids can help add ingredients to the pot and mash the finished soup.
I like this recipe for cooking with my own kids because it's not too fussy — the vegetables don't need to be perfectly even — and they can assemble most of it themselves.
How kids can help: Have your kids chop all the vegetables for this one and smash the garlic. While everything roasts you can play a round of Go Fish.
I adore any recipe that uses tator tots. Topping what is basically an egg bake with tator tots is like frosting a cake — it only makes everything more appealing and delicious.
How kids can help: Have your kid crack the eggs. Make sure you have a really big bowl that your tiny chef can whisk up the egg mixture in.
Knowing how to make a cheesy, perfectly crisp quesadilla is a quintessential life skill. This recipe is one that older kids can make themselves, thanks to the step-by-step photos.
How kids can help: Can you tell I make my kids grate cheese often? I do it because it keeps them busy and I don't have to monitor my littlest as much as I do when he has a knife in hand. Always get your tiny chef to grate the cheese for quesadillas.
You didn't think there was going to be a cooking with kids recipe list without pizza, did you? French bread pizza is a particularly nice starting place for making pizza with kids because there's no dough to wrestle with.
How kids can help: Even younger kids can assemble these French bread pizzas alone — just slice the bread for them and set it on the baking sheet to catch the rain of cheese.
Here's another recipe where shortcut ingredients — namely tortellini, broth, carrot coins, and baby spinach — can make a kid feel like they cooked dinner without a ton of supervision on your part.
How kids can help: My 3-year-old is particularly fond of squeezing lemons; this is an ideal task to give him while his sister cooks the rest of the soup.
This one-pan recipe is great for older kids — say, 10- to 12-year-olds — who can follow a recipe closely, but you can also get your younger cooks helping here too. It doesn't hurt that the resulting veggie-packed pasta tastes like pizza either.
How kids can help: Get your little chefs to use scissors for cutting the cauliflower and the pepperoni while you assemble everything else.