Simple Recipes for Small Hands

by Deborah Shelton

"Mommy, what are you cooking? Mommy, what's for dinner? Can I help? Please! I want to help! I want to help! I want to..." (Plea muffled by full-scale fake sobs and writhing on the kitchen floor).

Does that scenario seem familiar? That's what dinnertime in our home used to sound like. My first solution? Like so many other unsuspecting yet well-meaning moms, I gave my four-year-old son pots and pans, with a few uncooked beans in each, and a big wooden spoon. The result? A four-year-old banging pots and pans with a big wooden spoon while I slide across the floor on uncooked beans.

That was the old days. Now when it's time to start dinner, I make sure that I plan at least one easy dish that my son can make on his own. I lay out all of the ingredients, chopped and peeled if necessary, along with the appropriate bowls and utensils onto the table. My son feels better knowing that he makes a real contribution to our meal, instead of just background noise. I love the extra time it gives us to discuss how our days went, and to plan tomorrow's entrees.

Here are a few of his favorite treats to try at home with your children:

  • Tossed Salad: chopped lettuce; tomatoes; carrots; bowl. Mix ingredients into the bowl.
  • Sandwich Shapes: bread; favorite sandwich fillings; butter knife; cookie cutters. Make your favorite kind of sandwich. Use the cookie cutters to create different sandwich shapes.
  • Guacamole Dip: mashed avocados; chopped tomatoes; chopped onions; oregano; salt; bowl; spoon. Mix ingredients into the bowl.
  • Cheese Burritos: tortillas; shredded cheese; paper plate; toothpick; microwave. Sprinkle shredded cheese onto a flat tortilla. Roll one end over and over until it looks like a burrito. Poke a toothpick through the burrito to hold the shape. Place on a paper plate and heat in the microwave for about fifteen seconds.
  • Fruit Salad: sliced apples; pineapple; pears; other favorite fruits; bowl; spoon. Mix ingredients into the bowl.
  • Instant Pudding: package of instant pudding; milk; bowl; spoon. Mix ingredients into the bowl and chill in the refrigerator.
  • No-Bake Banana Crunch Cookies: sliced bananas; graham crackers; plastic bag with seal; plate. Place graham crackers into a plastic baggie and seal. Crush the crackers with your hands into crumbs. Put the banana slices into the baggie with the crumbs and seal the bag. Shake the bag well to coat the bananas with crumbs. Serve on a plate.

Deborah Shelton is the author of The Five Minute Parent: Fun & Fast Activities for You and Your Little Ones

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