~ When you’re confined to the house, it can be tough to find enough ideas to keep the kids busy … and foods that keep them happily fed. Cooking with kids solves two problems at once! Keep ’em busy AND get them fed! Plus, you just might have fun together or learn something new along the way! ~
Things every parent hears (on pretty much continuous lifetime repeat):
I want to do something! (Bonus parental points if you can help them figure out what this “something” is because they have no idea themselves. Good luck with that.)
Can I have a snack?
… and then it begins all over again …
OMG. Face palm.
I love being a mom. So, so much. But it can get tricky sometimes, keeping those unbelievably curious little minds engaged, and keeping those growing bodies fed. (And … ummmmm … a bunch of other tricky things, too. I realize I’m kind of only scratching the surface here in terms of parental challenges.)
But you get the point.
If you’re a parent, you know exactly what I mean. (And I’m pretty sure that, if you’ve read this far, you’re either a parent or a grandparent, right?)
So what amplifies kids’ boredom? Yeah. You know what I’m gonna say. Being completely stuck in the house with no ability to play with friends, or head to the library or the zoo or the park, or even go anywhere near other human beings. *SIGH*
Honestly, I can’t even imagine the challenge. Since Amy and Ty are high school seniors now, they’re able to self-entertain pretty capably (most of the time!). Plus, they’re so buried in remote learning assignments and college scholarship applications – they can really only dream about the decadence of being bored.
But they used to be little, not all that long ago. And I remember how challenging it was back then, to keep them entertained, engaged, happy, and fed some days.
Parents of little ones – please hang in there. You’ve got a monumental task on your hands right now. Amidst all your own stress and fears, you’re facing the daunting three-ring circus of stir-crazy kids who know there’s no end in sight. I’m so sorry.
I hope maybe my ideas here will help you get through a day – or an hour – a tiny bit more sane.
Cooking with my kids was always one of my best magic tricks when I needed to pull some “happy day” magic out of my hat, even when they were really, really young.
When I didn’t know what else to do, I could usually get them excited about a cooking project – especially if it was a hands-on, get-messy, we-get-to-eat-it-immediately cooking project. Kids love to be directly involved and really get in there.
These recipes let them do that (of course, depending somewhat on exactly how old they are and what’s safe for them at that age). Some of these kid-favorite recipes are essentially edible art projects (even better – you get an art “class” out of the deal, too!). And by the end of it all, they’ll not only have been immersed in an engaging activity, they’ll also have been fed something nourishing.
If you have the energy for it, maybe you could even slip in a little lesson about fractions or measuring … or maybe save that for another day if you just can’t play the role of teacher for one more minute. Either way. Whatever works.
Hang in there, friends. Stay well. And find chances to build a few priceless memories you’ll treasure when you look back on all this, once they’re grown and gone (and you don’t hear I’m bored! anymore).
These are like PB&J gone wild! And you don't even have to stick to basic peanut butter and jelly here. Nope! Get really wild by venturing into our other creative filling ideas (we've even got lots of nut-free options). No matter what you choose, your kiddos will have a blast making these ... and eating them!
Add a cheerful rainbow to their day as they help you construct this super-healthy recipe! It's definitely the yummiest-ever lesson in good ole ROY G BIV! You can stick with just the rainbow part of this project for a nourishing, fruit-filled snack, or turn this into a healthy breakfast by positioning an egg as the sunshine ... or as the rainbow’s pot of gold!
While we're talking happy rainbows, here's another idea for learning about colors and the science of ROY G BIV. We’ve got lots of ideas for color-coded veggies, so kids can pick and choose how they make their own edible (and really healthy!) rainbow skewers.
We originally shared the recipe for these adorable beasties at Halloween. But kids love monsters any time of year, especially when they're fun to make, delicious to eat (and hey hey ... even healthy, too)!
When you're cooking with kids, sometimes the best part is just letting them get really creative with whatever flavor combinations they want. They feel empowered when they get to choose. This recipe is perfect for that! Even really little kiddos can get involved in choosing how to make their own unique creations! We’ve got loads of ideas for spreads, toppings and sprinkles – it's easy to adapt this one to whatever you have in the pantry or the fridge. No need to leave the house for a grocery run! You can even stick to pantry staples like dried fruit, coconut, granola and nuts. So many options and ways to adapt this!
Peach Stegosaurus, anyone? "Ants on a log" doesn't have to involve peanut butter and celery. Break out whatever ingredients you have on hand, and let the creativity (and healthy snacking) begin! Kids will have a ball inventing all sorts of crazy combinations. (And you might have a moment of peace to sip a cup of coffee and recharge – and maybe nibble your own Peach Stegosaurus along with it!)
Ok ok ... you can probably tell that this "cooking with kids" project (which involves absolutely zero actually cooking) was originally designed specifically for St. Patrick's Day. But we could all use the cheerful promise of a pot o' gold right about now! This fun snack is quick and easy (you can skip the little shamrocks if you don't have the right cookie cutters). And – thanks to the natural sweetness from a surprising mix-in – this recipe is ridiculously healthy, too!
Another fun kids' recipe where everyone can mix-and-match toppings and combinations to customize their very own creations! (We all know how much kids love being in charge.) Just like with the Fruit Pizzas above, you can use fresh fruits if you've got them, or rely on pantry staples – whatever you have available.
Easy "No-Bake" Recipes Kids Love
With no need to fire up the oven (although a couple of these recipes require the microwave), these snacks and desserts let the kids get involved in shaping balls, pressing bars, stirring ingredients ... and all with the immediate gratification of getting to sample their work right away. No waiting around for things to bake and cool!
We've got a whole bunch of no-bake energy ball recipes on our site. Lots of flavors to choose from! They're all made with shelf-stable ingredients, and are full of quality protein and whole grains. Plus, they all freeze beautifully. Get those kids to help you stock the freezer, and you'll have delicious, healthy snacks ready to go for weeks!
Just mix everything together, press it all into a pan ... and enjoy! These addictive bars are decadent enough for dessert, but nutritious enough for a snack, too! And they're made with entirely shelf-stable pantry ingredients that you can easily keep on hand.
This is another recipe with an ingredient list that includes only shelf-stable pantry ingredients – perfect when you're limiting grocery runs. They're quick and easy and really nutritious ... but still deliciously indulgent, too!
If you've never tried the "brown paper bag" method, this is a fun one to share with the kids. They'll think it's cool ... and you'll feel terrific that they're enjoying popcorn without all the icky weird additives found in most store-bought microwave popcorns. Bonus points: if you have the energy to get even more creative here, check out our list of Popcorn Toppings and Seasonings!
This recipe requires about 3 minutes and just 4 simple ingredients you probably have on hand anyway. And since all you do is stir it together, even really young kids can make this recipe. It's a great way to encourage kids to eat extra, nutritious fruit! Another great fruit dip we love? Our Peanut Butter Silk Pie Dip! It's also a 4-ingredient recipe you simply stir together ... and this one is outstanding with apple wedges!
Kid-Favorite Smoothies and Frozen Treats
Whenever my kids have some free time (even now that they're teenagers and pretty terrific in the kitchen), their favorite cooking projects are often things like simple smoothies or popsicles. I suppose it's because these recipes really are just so simple ... and so rewarding. Toss a few things together in a blender (and maybe then into a popsicle mold), and you're done. Easy-peasy. A nourishing, refreshing treat that requires just a few minutes of effort!
So chocolate-y and refreshing! A childhood treat made healthier (but don't worry – the kids totally won't notice that these are healthy)! Super easy, too. Just whisk 4 ingredients together and pour them into your molds. Yum!
Dreamed up by a kid (so you know it's 100% kid-approved)! This refreshing smoothie adds tropical pineapple to the classic flavor of an orange creamsicle. It's like a ray of tropical sunshine on even the gloomiest, stuck-in-the-house days!
These are absolutely adorable made with heart-shaped molds (or any other shape you like). But not to worry if you don't have molds – we've got instructions for making them without, too! Super easy and such fun!
Ice cream doesn't have to take forever to make, or be loaded with naughty ingredients! In just 5 minutes (with 5 simple ingredients), your kiddos will be digging into this crazy-delicious, luxuriously creamy, no-churn ice cream that's actually loaded with nutrition!
Shamrock Shakes are too good to enjoy just on St. Patrick's Day, especially when they can be so much healthier, too! Your kids will love whirring up this delicious version (almost as much as they love drinking it)! Everyone will be shocked at how healthy this copycat version is … and how it tastes just like its namesake original (honestly, maybe even better)!
Like portable Strawberry Sundaes! These are so good ... filled with fresh strawberries and bits of chocolate. Mmmmmmm. But with so much fruit, plus the protein of Greek yogurt, they're actually a nutritious treat, too!
You might have to explain to the kids who Elvis was (a little pop culture history lesson for them). And definitely cue up some "Blue Suede Shoes" or "All Shook Up" (which is a totally smoothie-appropriate title, right?). And then ... enjoy this "Elvis" Smoothie with its classic combination of bananas and peanut butter. This one is definitely delicious enough for dessert, too!
And BTW … if your kids are older and ready to cook independently, have them check out a couple of the “cooking lessons” posts from our Kitchen Tips section:
I wish I could hug you all (from the safe distance here, behind my computer screen, of course). Even better? Hug your little ones close, and don’t give up on trying to make the best of this really tough situation. I hope that my recipes, ideas and tips will lighten your burden a little in the days and weeks to come. We’ll all just keep trying to get through this, together. Be safe.