Passionate About Des Moines
and the Moms Who Live Here

Teaching Kids the Art of Cooking for Company

kids cooking: kids in the kitchen

I’m so thankful my mom taught me cooking basics when I was a kid. I’m not a stellar chef or a foodie by any means, but by the time I graduated high school, I knew my way around the kitchen. I want the same thing for my own children. 

In recent years, my two older kids (ages ten and nine) have learned how to make scrambled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches, tuna salad, and pancakes. They LOVE to cook and are always eager for me to teach them something new. My four-year-old has a ways to go before she reaches a similar level of independence in the kitchen, but she does take pride in spreading peanut butter and jelly on her sandwiches and cutting up fresh fruit with these kid-friendly knives!

Recently, my husband and I decided to add a new dimension to our kids’ cooking lessons: the art of cooking for company! We place a high value on hospitality and want to involve our kids in the process of welcoming guests to our table. It was such a delightful experience I thought I’d share with you here! 

We blocked off three Monday nights in a row that worked for our family. We explained to our kids they were each going to get a special night to be the “kid chef”. Here’s how it worked. They chose a menu for the night and learned how to prepare it with me. They also got to invite any individual, couple, or family to be their guests for the meal.

They were thrilled and began counting down the days until their turn. As their night to cook approached they deliberated on who to invite, what to cook, and how to set the table. I loved witnessing their pure joy throughout the process!

Here’s what made the kid’s cooking and hosting lessons successful:

  1. I worked with each kid on selecting their menu, only offering choices that were age appropriate and approved by me.
  2. I took a deep breath before starting each cooking session and accepted that the kitchen would get MESSY!
  3. I limited my teaching to verbal instructions unless physical intervention was absolutely necessary. No matter how hard it was to refrain from jumping in, I allowed them to do the measuring, pouring, mixing, spreading, etc. This was their night to shine!
  4. I suggested that the “kid chef” recruit their siblings to help with setting the table, visiting with their guests in the living room, and taking “beverage orders” as we finished up the final touches of the meal.

Here are the menus (they were all great!):

Ten-year-old daughter:

  • Mini meatloaves
  • Fresh green beans, sauteed
  • Pre-made, ready-to-heat mashed potatoes
  • Homemade hot fudge sauce with vanilla ice cream
  • Lemonade from concentrate

Nine-year-old son:

  • Lasagna with meat sauce
  • Tossed salad 
  • Dinner rolls, ready-to-bake from the frozen section
  • Chocolate chip cookies, with ready-made dough
  • Lemonade from concentrate

Four-year-old daughter:

  • Oven-baked ham and cheese slider sandwiches (Don’t worry, I put them in the oven!)
  • Macaroni and cheese, made in the Instant Pot (again, I handled the Instant Pot; she measured, poured, and stirred)
  • Roasted broccoli
  • Fresh fruit 
  • Oreo and chocolate pudding “mud cups”
  • Lemonade from concentrate

kids cooking: kids in the kitchen

Once the table was spread, the “kid chef” invited their guests to take a seat, thanked them for coming, and explained what he or she had cooked for them. We then said grace, dug into our feast, and had a wonderful time!

Each night proved to be a time of family cooperation, warm conversation with guests, skill-building, and memory-making. All three of my kids are begging for their turn to come again, and all of our guests have expressed how much they enjoyed being a part of such a special evening.  

Would you consider letting your kid be “chef for the night” and host their own guests for dinner? Let me know if you give it a try!

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One Response to Teaching Kids the Art of Cooking for Company

  1. Kara September 18, 2018 at 8:41 pm #

    Oh Erika, this makes my heart so happy!! I love cooking with my girls but have never thought to have them cook a meal AND get to teach them hospitality at the same time. Such a great idea. Definitely going to implement this soon. And what a great way to teach some independence too!

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