Can you believe a mom of 4 could teach her big kids how to cook in just 2 weeks??
I love that Mary used my online cooking class for kids, all three levels, every single day for two weeks, even while the toddler was underfoot! In the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, my kids and I teach your kids how to cook by introducing age-appropriate skills in a way that builds connection, confidence, and creativity. I’ll help you decide if Kids Cook Real Food is right for your family, but first, prepare to be amazed by Mary’s tenacity in this project…
Have you ever had a really good idea that could either be amazing or completely insane?
I think I may have lost my mind. I got this crazy idea to teach my kids how to cook using the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse…in under two weeks.
It sounded doable in theory. I mean, it’s only eight classes. But I do have four kids (one in each class level plus one barely toddler), aaand we had swimming lessons every day during those two weeks (which is why they are in swimming suits in some pictures).
I almost forgot it was also just one week after we wrapped up our school year. No time like the present, right? It actually was helpful to do it before getting out of a routine.
So, yeah, probably stretching myself a bit. But we went for it anyway!
And we all survived, mostly.
This is my experience doing all three levels of KCRF at one time, straight through, in less than two weeks. I’ve got LOTS of pictures to help you get a good idea of all of the work involved (sorry for the poor lighting in my kitchen…it’s on my wish list to redo it someday and make it much brighter! A previous owner decided dark mauve walls would be good for a kitchen…)
I do want to be upfront that we have had the course for three years now (since it was created). So my kids have had exposure to it and do help me in the kitchen already. But we have only done some of the classes sporadically, so there was still a LOT to learn!
Preparing to Teach Kids How to Cook
Before we ever set foot in the kitchen I made sure I had a plan. This was not the time to just wing it.
I looked through every lesson, took note of skills and what food we’d make. Then I made a two-week lesson plan and meal plan based on that. Which meant my kids helped make lunch and dinner almost every day for two weeks straight.
Kind of nice. Kind of anxiety-inducing.
I also went grocery shopping so I would have everything on hand. I generally only shop once every two weeks. So I had to be organized. Of course, the one thing I forgot was celery…the thing used in the very first beginner lesson! Thankfully my kids took it in stride and were more than happy to have their ants on a log on sticks of bread.
Finally, I prepared myself mentally. I am a very organized, let’s get things done kind of person. My kids…not so much. But with trying to get out the door at 9:00 am every morning for swimming we had to be on top of things. Most days we had the majority of our course work done by then! The kids watched their video cooking lessons either the night before or during breakfast. Then we got right to work.
Now I can share our experience with you. I’ll walk through each lesson and share my meal plans and challenges we faced. I tried to snap a picture of our lunch every day to show you their work.
I did move some skills around a bit as they fit into our meal plans and time. Sometimes one kid would do two or three lessons in a day if those skills were needed. We even made a new recipe to share!
Lesson 1: Teach Kids Spreading and Peeling, Following a Recipe, Sharp Knife Skills (Monday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Lunch: Ants on a log (on strips of gluten-free bread), veggies with hummus, grapes
Dinner: Roast chicken, rice, salad with homemade Italian dressing, peas
My kids were very eager to get in the kitchen on the first day. And since they’ve all had a lot of practice with knives, it was pretty simple.
My four-year-old made the ants on a log for lunch and peeled vegetables for lunch and dinner. My eight-year-old made Italian dressing for our dinner salads. My eleven-year-old chopped vegetables for lunch and dinner.
My one-year-old participated by emptying the kitchen cupboards and drawers. He didn’t think the kitchen was messy enough. 🙂
When we got home from swimming lessons my beginner made the ants on a log. The rest of lunch was just dishing things up on the plate. Easy! It was so nice to have a win in the kitchen on the first day to keep them excited.
Lesson 2: Kids Learn How to Use a Dull Knife or Sharp Knife (Tuesday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Lunch: Misc. leftovers, fruit salad
Dinner: Sloppy lentils, roasted parsnips, fruit salad
There was a lot of chopping going on for day two. It was fun to have the kids try cutting things they’ve never cut before and practice the different techniques.
I think “up and over soldier” is definitely a favorite. Though my preschooler usually gets a little tongue-twisted and says “up and over shoulder!”
We combined their efforts to make a delicious fruit salad for both lunch and dinner (my husband was out of town, so we were eating very simple!). My advanced kid prepped some veggies for day three.
My biggest challenge was a toddler trying to grab everything off the table and get his hands near a knife! Plus kids fighting over space. My kitchen setup is less than ideal.
I put a card table in the middle for their working space. But it’s hard to fit three kids around it with cutting boards and produce. In hindsight, I probably should have moved one of them to the dining room table.
Trying to take pictures of every skill also added a level of challenge that most would not encounter.
Lesson 3: More Dull Knife Skills, Cracking Eggs, Sharp Knife Practice (Wednesday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Lunch: Veggie stir fry, egg fried rice
Dinner: Salad bar
There was a LOT going on for day three. The kids pretty much did all of the food prep for the day.
I added two extra skills for my beginner – lettuce prep and peeling eggs. She also practiced knife skills by chopping cucumbers for our salads. She was excited to try the crinkle cutter.
My intermediate kid was a little nervous about mastering his egg cracking skills. It wasn’t the first time he’s done it, but he hadn’t tried in a while. He did quite well, and was very excited to make the egg fried rice.
My advanced kid was so excited to work with garlic. Honest mom moment here – I NEVER use fresh garlic.
I know, it’s healthy. But I just hate peeling it and dealing with the sticky mess. I stick to garlic powder.
But my daughter felt like a real chef working with garlic. And I’ll admit the flavor really can’t be beat! I may have to put her on garlic duty a lot more often now. #win
She also loved making the stir fry veggies. She got to choose how to season them.
Of all of the food the kids made during the course, the day three lunch was their favorite. Of course, using chopsticks to eat lunch was an added bonus! They thought it was so good that we made it again a couple weeks later for dinner so Dad could try it.
Katie often says that parents should leverage the pride kids feel in feeding others to continue to motivate them to want to cook, and we definitely saw that in action here!
Our salad bar for dinner (with lettuce from our own garden) was so delicious too with chicken, hard boiled egg, cucumber, chickpeas, zucchini cheese (get the recipe here), and homemade salad dressing.
Since my husband was out of town and we made such a mess this was a great day to have the kids practice their dishwashing skills! Teaching them how to clean up is an important part of cooking and overall life skill.
Lesson 4: Kids Learn Measuring, Making a Recipe Without Help, More Chef’s Knife Skills (Thursday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Lunch: Omelette (using leftover cracked eggs) or sunbutter sandwich, veggies, apple crisp
Dinner: Ranch chicken and veggie soup, banana muffins
Day four was another busy one, with lots of baking.
We used the ranch dressing mix to make ranch chicken and veggie soup. It was delicious! My daughter also used the crinkle cutter again to slice cheese for Dad to have crackers and cheese with his soup (the rest of us only eat very limited dairy).Print
You can use leftover homemade ranch mix for whip some up fresh for this yummy soup recipe.
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 2 cups diced veggies of choice (zucchini, rutabaga, peas, onion, celery, carrot, potato, parsnip)
- 1 cup cooked and diced or shredded chicken
- 1/2 cup dry lentils (optional)
- 2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1 tsp. dried dill weed
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 2 tsp. organic cane sugar (optional)
- In a large pot combine all of the ingredients.
- Simmer until the veggies are cooked (10 – 25 minutes, depending on which veggies are used)
- Add extra seasoning if desired.
The sugar really makes the other seasoning stand out.
- Calories: 135
- Fat: 1.9g
- Carbohydrates: 14.4g
- Protein: 14.9g
- Cholesterol: 18mg
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My intermediate kid made gluten-free banana muffins. This was a challenging lesson for him as he hadn’t followed a recipe much. So I had to do a lot of coaching.
There were plenty of mistakes. But in the end we had some pretty awesome muffins. And best of all baby brother loved them so much that I think he ate three of them that day! My son has even made the same recipe several times since then – building that confidence!
My advanced kid peeled and chopped apples and then turned them into apple crisp.
It was a great chance to keep working on oven safety as that makes her nervous. But she did a great job.
And we all reaped the benefits with apple crisp for lunch!
I’m trying what Katie does and serving dessert as part of a meal instead of after a meal to take away the “good food, bad food” feeling about it. Everyone still ate all of their lunch, regardless of when in the meal they ate the dessert.
Plus it was fun for me to watch and see who ate it first and who saved it for last!
Lesson 5: Beans, Stove Top Safety for Kids (Friday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Lunch: Rice and black beans, fruit
Dinner: Tacos, refried black beans
Day five was a nice break from the super busy prep work.
We skipped the stovetop beans as I never make them that way. We always use the Instant Pot for beans. So my beginner didn’t have to do much. She checked and rinsed the beans and put them in the Instant Pot.
She also peeled and chopped cucumbers for our cucumber salsa (get the recipe here).
My intermediate kid was excited about day five. He loves to work at the stove and act like a chef. He’s been my go-to taco maker for a couple years now.
His new skill was cooking rice. We used that for rice and beans for our lunch. Then he cooked the taco meat for dinner.
Again, I make beans in the Instant Pot. This includes our refried beans. It’s super easy, though it does splatter a bit. She also made the cucumber salsa and grated cheese.
Lesson 6: Kids Learn Pouring, Flipping, Cooking Eggs (Saturday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Lunch: Taco bowls, gummies
Dinner: Pancakes, hard-fried eggs, roasted veggies
Since we had the momentum going we kept right on going even though it was the weekend. We normally have breakfast for dinner every Friday. But we moved it to Saturday since the skills fit so well. Making breakfast foods for dinner also gives a lot more time for prep instead of trying to do it in the morning when everyone is so hungry.
My beginner made grape gummies (we use this recipe). The kids enjoyed them for snacks and with lunch for several days. She loved the chance to work on pouring and doing stove work!
I let her keep playing with the dirty dishes in the sink after we made the gummies so she could do more pouring practice.
My intermediate kid made pancakes for dinner. I was going to have him help make the batter, but we ran out of time. So I just had him do the cooking.
It took a few tries to get the hang of pouring and flipping pancakes, but by the end of the batch he was doing really well.
My advanced kid was so eager to make eggs. She decided to do hard fried eggs after watching the video. I can’t say I’ve ever made eggs that way, but she did a phenomenal job. They were delicious!
It was challenging to have two kids working at the stove and needing assistance at the same time, especially when they can’t both have the pan handles turned the right way (and needing to nurse the little one at the same time as trying to help them!). But they did ok with it.
Lesson 7: Salad, Rolling Dough, Small Appliances in the Kitchen (Monday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Dinner: Homemade chicken rice-a-roni with peas, salad
After six days straight of working with the kids in the kitchen, it was a nice treat to have the kitchen to myself on Sunday. But Monday morning we were right back at it.
My beginner did the salad lesson earlier, so we actually jumped to our day eight lesson. She made the dough for sourdough hamburger buns so they could rise over night. She also prepped our lettuce for our dinner salads.
For the intermediate lesson, we chose to make gluten-free graham crackers (get the recipe here) since we have been gluten-free for six years (we had just tried sourdough for the first time that week!) and didn’t feel like going through the work of making gluten-free tortillas. (Gluten-free “wheat thin style” crackers are also a recommended substitution for this skill.)
We also added an extra lesson, learning how to boil eggs. We used the eggs in other meals for the next few days.
This was one of my daughter’s favorite lessons.
First she got to use the food processor. Who doesn’t love that? Also, she LOVED the chickpea patties.
We struggled a little with getting the consistency right since we adjusted the recipe a bit to fit our dietary needs. But they ended up so delicious.
The kids ate them plain. I had mine on top of a salad. We actually cooked them in the morning before we left for swimming, and then they were ready to go when we got home.
This was probably my one-year old’s least favorite lesson as he is NOT a fan of the food processor or the stand mixer. Both terrify him. Just the sight of the stand mixer bowl makes him scream.
Lesson 8: Working with Dough, Browning Meat, Steamed Veggies and White Sauce (Tuesday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Lunch: Sourdough buns with turkey, ants on a log, leftover rice-a-roni
Dinner: Sloppy joes on sourdough buns, steamed broccoli with white sauce
Extra: Mudballs for breakfast
By this time my beginner had completed the whole course! But she was still a big help in the kitchen.
When we got home from swimming lessons she helped make lunch. I had to nurse the toddler, and the big kids wanted to play outside. So she made sandwiches (using the sourdough buns she helped make) and ants on a log (we ran to the store to grab a few things and finally got our celery).
What a nice treat that was for me! All I had to do was stick the leftover rice-a-roni in the toaster oven.
She was actually so eager to keep cooking that she chose to do some extra work and helped me make mudballs for breakfast. She’s only four, but she does really well working at the stove.
And she’s learning that the cook gets to do the taste testing. So it’s a smart idea to volunteer to make the sweet stuff.
My intermediate kid didn’t have a new skill to work on. But he practiced his meat cooking skills again, making sloppy joes for dinner (this is my super simple recipe that is allergy friendly and nightshade free).
My advanced kid really enjoyed this lesson as well. She was surprised how easy it is to steam broccoli.
And bonus for all of us that we had some fresh broccoli from the garden, which made it even better! The white sauce she made was delicious! We used almond milk and rice flour for it.
Bonus Lesson: Peeling Eggs, Boiling Eggs, Homemade Mayo (Thursday)
Meals Kids Can Make
Lunch: Graham crackers with sunbutter, fruit, broccoli with white sauce
Dinner: Burgers on sourdough buns, potato salad, roasted veggies
Friday lunch: Potato salad, Hard boiled egg, veggies, pineapple, gummies, brownie
We skipped Wednesday since we had a super busy day with several other activities besides swimming lessons. But we picked right back up on Thursday with our final lesson – the bonus lesson of making potato salad.
It was fun to have a recipe that all three kids worked on together.
My beginner peeled and chopped the eggs. My intermediate kid peeled, chopped and cooked the potatoes. He also did the final assembly of the potato salad.
My oldest enjoyed making mayonnaise. I used to make it all the time, but haven’t done it in a while.
So it was good to have homemade on hand again (this is my copycat Miracle Whip® recipe). She loved watching how quickly the mayo comes together using an immersion blender. She also chopped our veggies to roast for dinner.
And being the determined little cookie she is, my four-year-old decided she would make our burgers for dinner.
The grease was splattering a little, so she put on a coat to protect her arms. But she made some pretty awesome burgers from seasoning, to forming, to cooking. Her big sister raved about them. And they were even more delicious served on the sourdough buns she made. I loved seeing her participate so much!
Final Thoughts on Teaching Kids How to Cook
After the first few days, I wasn’t sure I made the right decision. I was a bit frazzled, and definitely not as patient as I would have liked. But it wasn’t because the course isn’t doable. It was because of our tight time schedule – working around nursing, napping, and swimming lessons. #reallife
But in total it was less than two weeks. So really not that much of a commitment. In the end, I’m so glad we did it! By doing one (or more) class each day we got into a good rhythm and learned so much.
I was very thankful I started out so well organized. That made the course so much easier. If we didn’t have swimming lessons we probably could have completed the course in one week.
I’d definitely recommend just going straight through from start to finish in a couple weeks instead of doing it just on weekends or as you have time. Commit one week of your summer or even your school year if you homeschool and focus on cooking.
My kids got into a good routine, and it kept the excitement going, though there were times that my four-year-old didn’t really feel like participating. And that’s ok.
I really loved doing all three levels together since they worked together to make meals. But a single level would be easy too.
In the end, I was totally impressed by how capable my kids are in the kitchen. Even my four-year-old could make a meal on her own!
One final challenge I tackled during the course (and every day of my life really) is teaching left-handed kids how to cook when you are right-handed. My first three kids are all left-handed!
So it’s getting easier now to show them how to use a knife by demonstrating with my left hand, as awkward as it feels. But it still takes me a minute to get the cutting board, knife, food, etc. set up correctly in the opposite direction.
Note from Katie: my tip for teaching left-handed children is to stand facing them. If you can stand on opposite sides of the table or a counter then you can demonstrate or guide with your right hand and they can mirror with their left!
Like I mentioned above we have had the course for over three years now. And I regret not just diving in and going through it right away. I’m not sure why I waited three years. My kids could have been helping me a lot more by now!
What To Do After The Kids Cooking Course is Over
Now that we have completed the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse my kids are more eager to help in the kitchen. So we set some goals for each child.
As someone that loves to observe how kids eat and behave, I found it fascinating that each of my kids gravitated towards a different set of skills. It lined up with their personalities and eating styles. And it means they don’t fight over who gets to do what as much.
My beginner is excited to go through the intermediate course, and I’m sure she’s very capable since she can already do some of the skills. The only challenge is that she can’t read yet, so following a recipe is harder.
She is also becoming our resident bread baker. As my slow and steady kid, she doesn’t mind the kitchen work that takes time.
My intermediate kid is now ready to tackle the advanced course. He also requested learning how to bake brownies (he has the biggest sweet tooth!).
His favorite type of cooking seems to be working at the stove, especially with meat. He loves to make tacos, sloppy joes, and burgers. And for our breakfast for dinner after we completed the course he cooked homemade pork sausage. He also needs to perfect a few skills like cracking eggs and following a recipe independently.
As a skilled chef now, my advanced kid is ready to tackle big projects.
She loves to be creative in the kitchen and prefers to bake and recipe create. She wants meals to be complex and fancy. One day she’d like to own a cake shop. She jumps at any chance she gets to decorate cakes.
The first recipe she requested to learn was french toast, so we had french toast along with our sausage. My oldest is also very skilled with a knife, so I often depend on her to do our veggie prep work. What a time saver for me and good practice for her!
We have yet to try the Thematic SkillLabs. I need to put those recipes on our menu so we don’t forget! (Thematic SkillLabs are bonus lessons that cover healthy breakfasts, healthy snacks and Instant Pot and slow cooker meals.)
Moving forward we have set a group goal of the kids starting to plan and cook dinner on Saturdays or Sundays – when we generally have more time. Hopefully soon we can get to the point where I don’t have to be there with them observing and helping.
Once we get that in place I’d like to focus on the financial aspect of food – budgeting and understanding how much real food costs. I also want them to learn more about cooking different types of meat, something there isn’t much of in the class.
Of course, the main goal is to provide them with opportunities to practice their skills as often as possible, and to let them participate when we have guests so they can build confidence.
For now we will continue to practice and learn new recipes. Maybe next summer we’ll do it again but move everybody up a level. By then my toddler will be two and ready to learn how to peel, spread, and use a knife!
I’m so glad we took this challenge, even if it did seem kind of crazy. My kids have a whole new set of life skills, and in the long run it will save me lots of time. Pretty soon I will be out of a job. Though hopefully not too soon since I love to cook!
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