21 Cooking Projects to Do With Kids
Monkey bread, meatballs, and no-churn ice cream! Try these easy recipes for savory, yeasty, munchy, and sweet treats with teens to toddlers.
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My 13-year-old son has remote learning for a whopping three hours a day. I’m not stressing too much about the schoolwork — New York City, where we live, has gone to a sort of pass/fail grading system given the circumstances — but I’m not thrilled at the thought of him playing video games and watching YouTube for more than half his waking hours. Luckily, he likes to cook.
We’ve been cooking together since he was a toddler, when he had his own set of kid-friendly plastic knives. It’s helped him to learn about math (how many quarter-cups go into one cup?), science (what happens if you add too much baking powder?), and executive function skills (what happens if you don’t make sure you have all the ingredients before you start?).
Now he’s old enough to do most things with light supervision, but I still enjoy hanging out in the kitchen with him. He’s more talkative when he’s not building up his island in Animal Crossing, for one thing, plus he’s become a pretty good cook. When I acquire a new cookbook or discover a new trove of recipes online, we look through it together in search of a new cooking project or two. (I have to add, lest you think I’m boasting: He remains among the pickiest eaters on the planet, so his repertoire is made up of things he likes to eat, like chicken cutlets and pizza.)
Over the years we’ve made some version of everything in the recipe selection that follows. Each cooking project lends itself in one way or another to working with kids, from ones as young as three or four years old to teens. If you’ve got too much time on your hands in quarantine, most will help you kill an hour or more, but you can easily pull off several of them much more quickly. (I’m looking at you, Owl Rice Cake Snacks.)
One piece of advice before we dive in: Don’t sweat the mess from kids in the kitchen. Cooking with kids can leave your kitchen looking like a herd of elephants just tore through it, so factor in the cleanup time, too. Oh, and don’t worry about making things look Instagram-perfect. The idea is to spend some fun time with your children, and let them experience the creativity that comes with cooking.
If your mind immediately went to baking when you pictured cooking with kids, these kid-friendly recipes will help you see how fun — and useful — it is to tackle something substantial for dinner together.
Fresh Handmade Egg Tagliatelle Pasta
I used to shy away from making pasta because I didn’t have one of those nifty roller/cutter machines. But neither did my husband’s Italian great-grandma, and she made fantastic pasta. This recipe shows you how to do it old-school, mixing and kneading the dough right on the counter, then rolling it out and cutting it by hand. Kids can participate in every step.
Those pillowy dumplings seem like there must be some magic involved, but making gnocchi is actually quite easy. This version only calls for two ingredients and time. Mixing the dough takes a light touch so it’s probably not for the youngest sous chefs, but rolling it out and shaping the dumplings is perfect for small hands.
Quesadillas check so many boxes for kids’ cooking: easy, customizable (leave the green onion in or out, add avocado or leftover cooked chicken), even gluten-free if needed (you can sub corn tortillas for the flour tortillas). Young chefs can help assemble and older ones can handle everything from building to cooking, with supervision.
Corn Dog Mini-Muffins
I don’t know about your kid, but mine would live on corn dogs if he could. There’s no way we’re going to start deep-frying on the regular, but this clever baked adaptation is totally doable. You (or your kid) mix up a simple cornbread batter and distribute it into mini-muffin cups. Each one gets studded with a chunk of hot dog before baking — a perfect job for a toddler.
Oven-Fried Chicken Tenders
My son is super-picky so I try not to make blanket statements, but: Kids love chicken tenders. Teaching them how to make their own with this simple recipe is going to pay off in the long run. We’re talking years of easy dinners, prepared by your kids. Triple-dip the chicken (flour, egg, then Parmesan and panko), and bake until golden and crispy. Need a gluten-free recipe? Here’s an option.
Quick and Easy Italian Meatballs
Ground beef, garlic, seasoning, and other ingredients get mixed by hand, which is perfect for kids to do. And rolling all those meatballs? Yup. You’ll bake them, then transfer to a pot of simmering (jarred) marinara to soak up the flavor.
Working with yeast is educational in the most delicious way. Seeing the dough’s texture change as you knead, watching the dough rise, shaping and baking — it’s all fascinating and instructive.
Homemade Pizza Dough
Just four ingredients, flour, yeast, salt, and water. That’s all you need for this recipe, which comes together without a mixer and makes deliciously thin-crusted ‘za. I feel perfectly comfortable making this blanket statement: Kids love shaping dough into pizza. No yeast? Or flour? You’ve got options!
How to Make Easy Challah Bread
I grew up making challah with my mom on Fridays, and while I don’t do it every week, when my son was little we braided more than a few loaves. This recipe gives basic instructions, but if you’re up for a little more fun, check out this rainbow-colored version.
Tell me your kid won’t enjoy making (and eating) this: You roll dozens of individual dough balls in butter and cinnamon sugar, then pile them into a Bundt pan. After baking, those balls emerge as one yummy, sticky, pull-apart loaf. Drizzle it with a vanilla glaze to take it over the top.
Julia Child’s White Sandwich Bread
I warn you: Once your kid eats a PB&J sandwich on bread she baked herself, you may have trouble going back to store-bought once we can all leave the house again. Good thing Julia’s recipe makes two loaves.
Glazed Yeast Donuts
Going out to Krispy Kreme isn’t exactly doable right now, but this recipe makes a good substitute. It’s got step-by-step photo instructions, and you don’t need any fancy equipment. Your kids can help you with everything up to the frying, and then they’ll love dunking the warm donuts in a vanilla-scented glaze.
Around my home, snack foods are in high demand during quarantine. Making them yourself not only kills time (and builds togetherness), it also replenishes the supply.
Homemade Goldfish Crackers
At 13, my son still eats Goldfish as often as he did when he was three. This recipe not only creates a highly munchable cracker, it also shows you how to make a fish-shaped cutter out of a soda can.
Easy Homemade Granola
Granola is perfect quarantine cooking, since you can use virtually any nuts, seeds, and dried fruit you have on hand. Let your kids experiment with different combinations and see which they like best.
Owl Rice Cake Snacks
This one’s less a recipe than an arts and crafts project, and it’s ideal for small hands. Spread peanut butter or almond butter on a rice cake and let your kids add various fruits and o-shaped cereal to make it look like an owl. Healthy and adorable.
Cinnamon Apple Pie Energy Bites
Dried apple rings, dates, almonds and cinnamon get whizzed together in the food processor (you handle the blade, but kids can do the rest). Let the little ones roll the mixture into balls, and everybody eats.
4 DIY Easy Popcorn Snack Mixes
Popcorn makes a great, healthy snack (it’s a whole grain, after all), but bowl after bowl can get a little dull. This guide shows you how to turn freshly-popped corn into four different snack mixes using munchable add-ins and varied seasoning. Try making all four at once, and having a taste test.
I’ve got one final blanket statement: Kids love making treats, almost as much as they love eating them.
No-Bake Funfetti Icebox Cake
Are you familiar with icebox cakes? The name comes from the time they spend in the fridge, softening up the cookies you’ve layered with whipped cream. All that layering and spreading is great for kids. This version uses graham crackers and sprinkles for simple, colorful fun.
How To Make Fruit Salad
Fruit salad was one of the first things my son learned how to make with his little plastic knives. This recipe walks you through the basics of selecting fruit, cutting, and tossing with a dressing (or not).
What do you call a moist, rich chocolate cake with no eggs or butter, that you mix and bake in one pan? Wacky Cake, of course, and yes, it’s vegan. This was probably my son’s first real baking experience, and it was definitely the first cake he baked himself. My last few birthday cakes — baked by junior — have all launched from this idea.
Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies
If you ask me, every kid should know how to bake chocolate chip cookies. This version hits all the right notes: Crunchy around the edges, soft in the center, with hints of toffee from the brown sugar and butter.
No-Machine Ice Cream
I used to think we couldn’t make ice cream at home, since I don’t have one of those churning machines. How wrong I was! Your kids are going to love making rich, satisfying ice cream with nothing but some heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk, and your choice of flavors. We’re a mint chip household.
Keep cooking with the kids
Recipes for quarantine cooking
We're with you at Yummly during the coronavirus to make home cooking as easy and flexible as possible. You'll find lots more ideas in our quarantine cooking collection.