Welcome I’m a big fan of having kids help in the kitchen. I probably learned that from my mom, who had me in the kitchen, helping out, before I had even started school. I’ve been bringing my own daughter into the kitchen from an early age as well. Summer is a great time to grab some eager little hands to help out in the kitchen. It’s a great remedy for those inevitable “I’m bored” moments.
Food For Thought Yes, I know…having kids help in the kitchen takes more time and creates bigger messes. But in the process, they are getting some great hands-on life experience and making wonderful memories, too. A more flexible summer schedule is the perfect time to get the kids in the kitchen and have them begin their cooking and baking experiences. Different tasks are appropriate for different ages, but there’s always something they can do.
Pancakes make good summer lunches and very young kiddos can mix up the ingredients, while older kids can practice their flipping skills. Supervised, of course. I remember some of my earliest kitchen tasks were tearing lettuce, snapping beans, and grating cheese. Kneading bread is perfect for their little muscles and makes them feel like a real baker. My daughter has been rolling and cutting biscuits and operating the electric mixer for several years now. Some of our favorite summer projects have been making graham cracker fairy houses. This is similar to the gingerbread house concept, but we use a lot of pastel candies and make them look cool for summer! We’ve made dirt cups and ocean jello cups. And kids love anything requiring sprinkles!
Kids are eager to explore their creativity in the kitchen arena. There are a variety of television shows, such as Kids Baking Challenge and Chopped Junior, where kids are getting the chance to show off their very own culinary skills. The great thing about cooking and baking with kids is its the kind of activity that addresses both ends of the spectrum, the analytical math and science-side, as well as the creative, artistic side. As an educator, I know the benefits of cooking with kids. Learning to read recipes and follow sequential directions. Organizing ingredients and equipment. Problem solving when something doesn’t work out right. Using math skills and watching chemistry and physics in action. At the same time, though, there’s a chance to explore, invent, and create. Some of our cooking and baking adventures have turned out to be as much of an art project as anything. Cooking activities really do engage so many parts of the brain and body.
So set aside some time this summer to explore the culinary arts or turn your kitchen into a mini-science lab. The kids will be learning, having fun, and making memories all at the same time. And if you play your cards right, in the next few years you may find yourself off of kitchen duty!
Today’s Recipes There are a lot of great recipes that are kid-friendly and inspiring for children getting their cooking start. One I think of is Rice Krispy Treats (or Crispy Rice Treats). Here is the classic recipe for the Crispy Rice Treats, plus two variations. What will your kids create?
Want to start with a tried-and-true classic?
Classic Crispy Rice Treats
- 1/2 cup butter
- 2 10-oz pkgs mini-marshmallows
- 1 12-oz box crispy rice cereal
Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. In a large pot, melt butter. Add marshmallows, stirring until completely melted. Remove pot from heat and stir in cereal until well coated. Pour this mixture into prepared pan. Press mixture firmly into pan. Allow to set for 30 minutes before cutting into 12 to 15 bars.
Ready to try something new?
Monster Cookie Crispy Rice Bars
- 1/2 cup butter
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter
- 6 cups mini-marshmallows
- 6 cups crispy rice cereal
- 1 cup chocolate chips
- 1 cup peanut butter chips
- 1 cup M&M chocolate candies
- 1 cup M&M peanut butter chocolate candies
Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl combine crispy rice cereal and all the chips and candies; set aside. In large pot, melt butter and peanut butter together. Add marshmallows, stirring until completely melted. Remove from heat and pour into bowl with cereal and candy. Mix well until everything is well coated. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Press mixture firmly into pan. Allow to set for 30 minutes before cutting into 12 to 15 bars.
There’s more to try!
S’more Crispy Rice Treats
- 1/2 cup butter
- 9 cups mini-marshmallows, divided
- 6 cups crispy rice cereal
- 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
- 1 Hershey chocolate bar, chopped
- 1 Hershey Special Dark bar, chopped
Spray a 9×13 pan with nonstick cooking spray. In large bowl combine crispy rice cereal with graham cracker crumbs and chopped chocolate. Stir in one cup of marshmallows; set aside. In medium pot, melt butter. Add six cups of the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and pour into bowl with cereal and chocolate. Mix well until everything is well coated. Pour mixture into prepared pan. Press mixture firmly into pan. Top with remaining two cups of marshmallows. Set broiler to high. When hot, place pan under broiler for 30 seconds. Remove from oven and allow to cool 30 minutes before cutting into 12 to 15 bars.
Crispy Rice Treats Tips and Tricks
If using your hands for pressing into pan, you may want to butter your hands first. A lot of kids will love the chance to get slimy and sticky! Personally, I spray a smooth cup with cooking spray and use it as a “roller” to press the cereal firmly into the pan.
Melted marshmallow is sticky and very hot. Handling this mixture is probably best left to the grown-ups, as it can burn severely! It takes some muscle to get all of that mixture stirred together completely, too.
In the monster cookie treats, the peanut butter and marshmallow mixture hardens quickly, so it’s best to pour and stir it into the cereal as fast as possible.
When broiling the marshmallow topping for the s’more treats, they will toast very quickly. Be standing at the oven door ready to pull them out with hot mitts in 30 seconds, MAX. I’ve burnt many a marshmallow and filled the kitchen with smoke on more than one occasion by leaving marshmallows in just a few seconds too long.
When cutting into bars, spray a long-blade knife with cooking spray to prevent sticking. This is another job for the grown-ups!