Kids in the Kitchen: Potato Salad “With Help”

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Homemade Potato Salad :: via Kitchen Stewardship

Nothing says summer to me like grilled hamburgers and homemade potato salad. It remains one of my favorite dishes that I could eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yes, I actually ate it for breakfast and a snack today. There go the last of our Easter eggs! Check out the recipe update with more details on “how to” at the new homemade real food potato salad post!

There are a million different ways to make potato salad, and it’s one of those things that people have a particular preference for, so I won’t try to convince you to use my mother’s recipe. I’m just here to encourage you to use methods that will increase the nutrition of your potato salad and incorporate your kiddos into the cooking, since this is another way to get eggs into your diet. Click here for the health benefits of eggs!

Kids are Often in the Kitchen at our House

I’m a big believer in kids being responsible for chores around the house, especially in the kitchen – both boys and girls. I’m raising a son who is going to make some faithful woman very happy someday!! (Or maybe he’ll be consecrating bread at another table; only God knows…) Before he turned two years old, my son was helping in the kitchen by carrying things to the table, washing fruit in the strainer, and even cleaning the floor. (Important note: I can only do that last one because I use vinegar and water instead of caustic cleaners!) I also began teaching him to use a knife soon after he turned two. The Montessori method (which I was reading into after my son was two) says that children can and should learn to spread and cut starting at 18 months. I can’t wait to try with my daughter!

Here is my dear son, someone’s future husband, cutting potatoes for potato salad. He is two years, 3 months.


Yes, I know that looks like a cleaver. Don’t worry, I do experiment a lot in the kitchen, but I don’t give kids sharp objects. It’s actually a cheese slicer that I found on super clearance (10 cents!) and bought without a vision of what it would become. This is now “Paul’s knife” which he uses to cut everything he can possibly help me with. He also has his “own” cutting board now. With your own children, you can use a cheese slicer or spreader knife (a friend uses a Christmas spread knife, and it works just great) or even a butter knife. Just be sure to train the child to point it away from faces and set it down as soon as they’re finished using it.

What Kids Do With Knives

Some of his “regular” cutting jobs include: slicing bananas for fruit salads, as well as pears and apples into bite-sized chunks after I core them, chunking melons after I remove the rind, slicing zucchini for casseroles, and anything else he can figure out how to help me with. This morning we made applesauce with reduced produce apples. I cut them in half, and he was able to quarter them with his knife, then I cored them and threw them in the pot.

He also loves to help me bake, and we’re working hard on learning to set the table and help clear. I’ll discuss more ways for kids to help in the kitchen in the future...for now, on to the potato salad!

Potato Salad, Little Helper Style

There are a few modifications you may have to make to your personal recipe in order for little ones to help:

  • The hard-boiled eggs need to be easy peelers.

    • This will happen, I understand, when the eggs are not as fresh. You can also crack the shells after they’re cold but still in cold water. This allows water to get under the shell and helps them – usually – to slide right off. My son had the patience of a saint and would pick off every little shell fragment when he was two. By the time he was three, he was done peeling eggs after he encountered one that wasn’t an “easy peeler”. Shucks.
  • Much like my posts, you need to really hold toddlers’ hands through detailed directions if you want them to do something correctly. To teach how to peel eggs:
  • Teach the process in great detail.
    1. Set up the child with a shallow bowl of water, a bowl or plate for the shells, and a bowl or plate for the peeled egg. Only give them one egg at a time.
    2. Demonstrate the entire process:
    3. Crack the egg all the way around.
    4. Dip in the water to loosen the shell.
    5. Show how to peel, using as much description as you can.
    6. Show the child exactly where to put the shells, telling them that the shells need to go into the garbage bowl right away. This will help the child learn order and precision.
    7. After peeling, show the child how to check for shell fragments and dip into the water to rinse off.
    8. Put the peeled egg into the bowl.
    9. The child is now ready to try the skill on his/her own.
  • NOW you can show them how to cut the eggs.

    • Again, make sure you have clear-cut areas for peeled eggs, cutting the eggs, and putting the pieces. Decide if you want them to cut the entire egg and then move the pieces to the bowl, or move each slice as they cut it into chunks. Do it the same every time.
  • Cook your potatoes first. It’s easy for kids to cut cooked potatoes into chunks; raw ones, not so much. It’s nice to have “quick” potato salad, too, when both potatoes and eggs are cooked and cooled and ready to go before dinner.

added bonusAdded bonus: baking potatoes in their skins retains the most nutrients; boiling them whole is second best.

  • Most people tend to peel and slice their potatoes first, then boil them. This loses the most nutrients, leaves the kiddos out…but it does taste more “standard” in potato salad and it’s the way to go if you need the job done in 20 minutes.
  • If you bake potatoes without wrapping in foil, the skins will almostpeel off without a peeler. The child can usually complete 80% of the job and you can finish with a knife.

    1. Like with the eggs, have a process for peeling and where to put everything. Demonstrate it precisely the first time. Talk the child through it. The time you spend now will be recouped when you can say to your 3-year-old, “Peel and cut those potatoes for the potato salad, please!” and it actually happens!
    2. Watch the child do the work, especially the first time. Wait a moment before responding if you see a mistake. They may catch it themselves! Don’t forget to allow for little errors that won’t change the outcome of the meal.
    3. Save those peels for potato crispies!

I hope all of you who have young children (or medium-sized children, for that matter!) can make a habit of inviting them into the kitchen and capitalizing on the teaching moments. I have to say, it was the highlight of my day to work side-by-side with my son today, cutting apples. It gave me a chance to praise him genuinely and teach the values of hard work and teamwork. He hasn’t wanted to help me much lately, probably because I’ve fallen into the trap of hurrying too much and expecting too much perfection out of him. :( I would revolt, too, if I were him! So it was a divine grace to have him willing to help, agreeable, and be able to take time to appreciate the moment. It works for me!

Katie’s Potato Salad

If you don’t have a favorite potato salad recipe, here’s mine – roughly. I don’t use a recipe! More updates HERE.

  • Use about equal number of hard-boiled eggs, whole potatoes, and dill pickles (fewer if they’re big ol’ whole pickles). For my family, I use 4 of each.
  • Cut into bite-sized chunks. It tastes best without potato skins, but nutrition is best with them. Sometimes I’m too lazy to peel them!
  • Mix with homemade mayo and mustard. For the 4 potato-4 egg salad, I use about a Tbs or two of mayo and just a bit less than that of mustard. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Tips:
    1. You can sub about half the mayo with plain yogurt.
    2. Don’t get “Light” Miracle Whip – it has artificial sweeteners!
    3. Use real mayo or homemade to increase nutritional value.
    4. Toss in a glop of pickle juice to add zing!
    5. You’ll want to start with just a little of the condiments, mix and taste. You can always add more, but you can’t take away (unless you have more potatoes and eggs to add). We LOVE mustard around here, so my potato salad is very yellow. My mother’s is much more white.
    6. Many people add chopped raw onion or celery as well.

Print This Recipe

Potato Salad
Recipe type: Side Dish
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 4 whole potatoes
  • 4 dill pickles, diced (fewer if they’re big ol’ whole pickles)
  • 1 -2 Tbs. mayonnaise
  • mustard - just a bit less than the mayo
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Bake potatoes in their skins for the most nutrients; boil them whole for second best.
  2. Let cool.
  3. Cut into bite-sized chunks.
  4. Cut hard-boiled eggs into small chunks.
  5. Add diced pickles.
  6. Mix with homemade mayo and mustard.*
  7. Season to taste.
Bake potatoes without wrapping in foil and the skins will almost peel off without a peeler.
Tips and variations:
-You can substitute about half the mayo with plain yogurt.
-Don’t get “Light” Miracle Whip – it has artificial sweeteners!
-Use real mayo or homemade to increase nutritional value.
-Toss in a glop of pickle juice to add zing!
-Many people add chopped raw onion (or dried) or celery as well.

*You’ll want to start with just a little of the condiments, mix and taste. You can always add more, but you can’t take away (unless you have more potatoes and eggs to add).
We LOVE mustard around here, so my potato salad is very yellow. My mother’s is much more white.
More updates HERE.

By coincidence, Kimi at The Nourishing Gourmet has a great post this week on how to balance littles and cooking here.

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6 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. says

    I would love to hear some more about how you incorporate the children in what you are doing. I have a very busy almost 2.5 year old and almost 18 month old that I would love to have ‘helping’. I am definitely going to try this out with the cutting. I am also very curious to hear what kind of mixture/ratio you use to clean the floor with vinegar and water. I have been researching ideas and recipes for homemade cleaners. Thanks!

    KissyKat’s last blog post..Blurbs on Bibs

    • Katie says

      I am definitely planning some posts about how to let the children help in the kitchen. A lot of it depends on your style and what you do in the kitchen, as well as your tolerance level. Teaching them to cut is a great place to start though, and I would start with a banana. My little guy helps A LOT with baking – pouring ingredients into the bowl, mostly, but he likes that he gets to help on every step. He also loves to push the buttons on our blender!

      For vinegar and water, I just pour a “dollop” into my 32oz. spray bottle and fill the rest with water. I use full strength vinegar to clean the shower and toilet. Definitely not rocket science! For sanitizing, I use 50/50 hydrogen peroxide (the drugstore kind) and water in one bottle and vinegar in another. In August or September I’ll be posting on homemade/green cleaners, if you can wait that long for more info!

  2. Taylor says

    I made this yesterday for 4th of July. I don’t see how it turned out like the picture with just a tbsp or two of mayo and mustard! It was so dry. I doubled the mayo, thinking maybe my 4 potatoes were big compared to yours, but still, way too dry, but we were out of mayo at that point, so I just served it anyway. :-/

    • says

      Sorry to hear that! If you ever run out of mayo again, try plain yogurt, sour cream, even pickle juice or a bit of olive oil just to moisten it up. Or more mustard if you like the flavor…

      Home cooking is a process of trial and error to be sure – :) Katie

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