National Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day is observed every year on September 13, promoted by the Young Chefs Academy (YCA) to empower kids and teens to become more actively involved in the kitchen—with appropriate adult supervision, of course. This year, kids may be home more than ever due to COVID-19 changing what the school year looks like. Why not let the kids take over some meals and switch up the routine? With September 13 falling on a Sunday this year, you might have some extra time to really get into it. Here are some tips and recipes to help you get started.
Prep for Success
Letting kids take over the kitchen will likely require some type of adult supervision, depending on their ages. Make sure you’re nearby if they need help with turning on the oven or stove—or using sharp knives. It’s best to plan ahead by picking some easy, kid-friendly recipes for the first time they cook (try these recipe ideas organized by age group), and have the kids help shop for fresh ingredients so they can learn about food planning and budgeting.
Make the activity even more fun by letting your kids wear a fun apron or chef’s hat if you have them. Pick a fun playlist for some cooking music to make time in the kitchen a celebration. If it’s too overwhelming to have the kids take over for the entire day, start with just one meal they can own from start to finish (including cleanup!). Other fun ideas include designing and printing menus, having the kids serve the whole family restaurant-style and dressing up for a “fancy dinner” complete with decorations.
Break for Breakfast
On a Sunday, you can go big with breakfast if you have more time. Try a healthier version of pancakes from our list of flapjack recipe ideas, or pick from a variety of these easy, healthy breakfasts designed for the busy back-to-school season.
Here’s a no-cook option for younger kids that gives breakfast a dessert-feel. These yogurt sundaes require zero heat, and you can change up the fruit with your family’s favorites or what you already have in the fridge.
Need more ideas? From smoothies to waffles to breakfast burritos — here are 19 ideas for easy, nutritious breakfasts kids can make.
Having kids help with lunch on a weekend makes it more likely they’ll be willing to help during the school week once they see how fun and easy it can be to make their midday meal.
Kids love lunch foods that come in fun shapes and that travel easily if they want to pack for school or take outside for a quick picnic. Try this easy and fun option:
Pizza Pinwheels: Top 1 whole wheat tortilla with 2 ounces of sliced turkey and 1 ounce shredded mozzarella. Serve with ½ cup of marinara for dipping – from a jar or if you’re feeling extra ambitious, make your own.
Looking for more lunch munches? This smart mom put together 11 ideas to get her kids helping with lunch in the summer – but these recipes can easily be accessed year-round for delicious and unique healthy options like sandwich skewers, a waffle grilled cheese and tons of toast topping combos.
If your kids are like most, snacks to power through the day are a must. Rather than grabbing not-so-healthy potato chips or sugar-loaded fruit snacks, encourage kids to make their own healthy options for snack time. Here are 10 ideas for snacks kids as young as preschool can make on their own.
Have them make a snack that can stretch into the week with leftovers, such as their favorite trail mix combo or a healthier version of party snack mix.
Snacks can come in fun shapes for kids to create and enjoy from grape and apple “cars” to a string cheese octopus with these creative snack designs.
Dinner is the main event in many homes on Sundays—and just because it’s a big meal, doesn’t mean kids can’t help. This might be the meal where you act as the “sous chef” to assist if the oven, stove or grill is required. Here are 15 easy dinner ideas to cook with kids.
If you’re wanting to go simple—you can never go wrong with a quesadilla (heat both sides in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil) or a wrap (serve hot or cold). Just take a whole wheat or spinach tortilla, fill with your favorite cheese, veggies and protein—like ham, turkey, chicken or hummus. Serve with a dipping sauce such as salsa, light ranch or honey mustard along with a side of fruit and dinner will be on the table in no time.
If kids are going to take over the kitchen, no doubt they’ll want a sweet ending to the main event. Desserts don’t have to be full to the brim with sugar and fat with these healthy, kid-friendly dessert ideas.
Since September still has warm temperatures, consider a simple refreshing dessert like frozen yogurt or sorbet or another healthy ice cream alternative topped with fruit. Or, try these frozen banana popsicles that only take four ingredients and very little prep time. Garnish with your favorite crushed nuts for added protein. These frozen delights are less than 100 calories for a sweet treat that is still light.
Don’t Stress About the Mess
Part of taking over the kitchen is taking over cleanup duty. Kids need to learn that the full process of cooking at home leads to dishes. Make sure to show them how to clean as they go, so they’re not overwhelmed at the end with piles all over the counter. Since height is a challenge for younger kids, bring in a safe stool they can stand on to help put clean dishes away or have them unload the dishwasher while an older child or parent helper puts them away. Don’t worry about too many cooks in the kitchen when it comes to cleanup—offer to share the cleanup duties (I’ll wash, you dry). Here’s a helpful list of kitchen chores by age for ideas on how kids can take part in the cleanup fun. And if they do a good job, consider making it part of their weekly chores with a chart for rewards.
With these helpful tips, get the kids to take over the kitchen in a fun, safe and healthy way. Consider investing in a kid-friendly cookbook if they get the urge to be a home chef more permanently.
The benefits of learning how to cook and eat healthy can having lasting effects on your little ones. Research has shown that students are able to learn better when they’re well-nourished and eating healthy meals has been linked to higher grades, better memory and alertness, and faster information processing. So, get the kids cooking and enjoy mealtimes together as a family this September 13 — and all year round.