The Best Recipes for Teaching Kids How to Cook

And the real reason you should make time to do it.

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Photo by: Catherine Delahaye/Getty

Catherine Delahaye/Getty

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When I first became a parent, older (and much wiser) parents always told me to enjoy life’s little moments because they would be gone before I knew it. And, let me tell you, they couldn’t have been more right. One minute I had a baby sitting in a high chair smooshing sweet potatoes all over her face, the next a fourth-grader who's number one question is, "Can I make dinner tonight?" Where did the time go?!

Not surprisingly, some of our best memories and "little moments" have taken place in the kitchen. From posting adorable Instagram videos of my daughter learning how to sift flour for cookies (at the age of 3!) to homemade pizza nights where we all end up giggling as we watch her (now 9 years old) attempt to spin and stretch pizza dough like they do in the movies. It never fails: when we cook together, we all leave the kitchen smiling.

Cooking is undoubtedly an important milestone in a child’s development. It’s a way to teach them about health, nutrition and safety; it helps to reinforce math and science skills and it instills a sense of pride and confidence when they accomplish tasks and rise to the responsibility. But I would encourage you to start teaching your kids (of any age) to cook because it’s an amazing way bond with them. The moments you share making (and later eating) everything from cupcakes to pasta bakes will end up being some of your best memories – for both you and your child. (Plus, when your child is old enough to cook independently and asks if they can make dinner you can say, "yes!" — and take the night off!)

Want to teach your kiddo this important life skill but not sure how to get started? Here are some recipes and milestones to help.

Photo by: PACIFIC TV

PACIFIC TV

For Little Ones: Zipper Bag Fruit Salad

Once you’ve cut up the fruit for this easy recipe, it's time to get even your littlest chefs involved. Kids of all ages will love spooning ingredients into the bag, shaking it up and pulling mint leaves off their stems for garnish. This is also a great opportunity to talk to them about health and nutrition — fruit is a healthy food that gives us energy to run, jump and play!

Photo by: Armando Rafael

Armando Rafael

For Beginners: Your Favorite Quesadillas

Kids have a pretty short attention span, which is why quesadillas are a good go-to recipe for a quick cooking lesson. We’ve rounded up some ideas for fillings but you can use whatever you have on hand. Take a moment to teach your beginner cooks about safety (wash those hands before cooking! Stay back from the oven!) and then let them fill and assemble the quesadillas on a parchment-lined sheet pan. A grown-up can pop the pan into a preheated oven (under the broiler, for about one minute per side) and lunch or dinner is done.

FN Flat Recipe, Shrimp Scampi Dump Dinner, Alfredo Shrimp Scampi Dump Dinner,

Photo by: Armando Rafael

Armando Rafael

For More Advanced Kiddos: Alfredo Shrimp Scampi Dump Dinner

Once kids are a little older and have a command of the basics, it’s time to start teaching them how to read a recipe and prepare all of their ingredients in advance. Dump dinners are perfect because, for the most part, all you need to do is add ingredients to a dish and bake. This gives kids the ability to focus and not feel overwhelmed — and plenty of time to go play while dinner cooks. And, depending on their age and/or skill level you can even start teaching them to use some handheld kitchen tools so that they can learn how to safely grate cheese, zest lemons or chop veggies and herbs (with plenty of adult supervision, of course!).

For Kids Who Can Cook on Their Own: Slow-Cooker Sloppy Joes

Got a tween or teen who loves to cook and needs little to no supervision in the kitchen? Teach them to use appliances like the slow-cooker. They’ll be able to make the entire dish from start to finish, which is a major confidence-booster! You’ll probably want to stay close and watch from a distance the first few times they cook independently. Keep the lines of communication open and let them know that they can ask questions anytime — but give them the space and autonomy to be in control of the process.

Brownie Mix Cookies

Photo by: Teri Lyn Fisher

Teri Lyn Fisher

For all ages: Brownie Mix Cookies

These insanely delicious brownie mix cookies are perfect for all ages. They require just a handful of simple ingredients and, let’s be honest, everyone loves scooping and squishing dough. Use this as a chance to reinforce math skills with measuring and to explain why accuracy is important (baking is science). Once your kiddos have graduated from these 4-ingredient chocolate treats, you can move on to our easy Peanut Butter Cookies, which require more measuring.

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