Family Night: Getting the Kiddos Involved in the Kitchen

11 Mar

Cooking with kids can seem intimidating. That’s because it IS. Think about all the dangers: knives, hot things, and the whole “curiosity killed the cat” theory that we never want applied to our little ones.

All of the above is true. But it’s not a deal-breaker. On the contrary, there are many ways to get the kids involved in safe, manageable ways.

  • Provide safe working environment.

Either take the dangerous stuff out of the kitchen (or out of reach), or take the kids out of the kitchen. But that doesn’t mean they still can’t be involved. See next bullet.

  • Choose a meal that doesn’t require active heating/cutting/flames.

Think creatively: what recipes require very little actual cooking til the very last step? One option is “Pigs in a Blanket”, recipe below. Think about it: you cut the hot dogs (can be done with a butter knife), you wrap them in pre-made croissant dough, and put them on the cookie sheet- all at the kitchen table- no actual kitchen time needed. Then, why not start a board game at the table and pop those piggies in the oven for a few short minutes before chowing down? It is family night, after all.

  • Get Dad, the big kids, and maybe even Grandma involved.

The best case scenario for a family night is to have the whole crew together, right? So why not make sure you’ve got one adult (or big kid) for every little one. The more eyes the better. Making macaroni with two toddlers? Put one adult on direction reading and project management with the youngest, and yourself on implementation duty (stirring, pouring, etc) with the big kid. Switch roles every 5 or 10 minutes so both kids get to cook.

  • Keep calm, and carry on.

Okay, so Billy dropped the egg on the floor, and Sarah ate a chunk of unbaked dough. It’s okay. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself that the kiddos aren’t bleeding, that this whole experience is about enjoying each other and having fun, and if the food tastes bad, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are readily available.

Note: If the kids ARE bleeding, skip that last step and high-tail it to the ER.

Pigs in a Blanket


  • One package of hot dogs
  • 1 tube croissant dough (perhaps Pillsbury)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cut each hot dog in half.
  3. Wrap each hot dog half in a single croissant triangle.
  4. Place rolled hot dogs on cookie sheet, equally spaced.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

Price Watch:

1 package of hot dogs: approx. $2

1 tubes of croissant dough: approx. $2

1 bag of microwavable steamed veggies (to round it out): approx. $2.50

Total Dinner Price for 4: approx. $6.50

Got more ideas on how to integrate kiddos into the kitchen? Share them in the comments- we’d love to hear it!


6 Responses to “Family Night: Getting the Kiddos Involved in the Kitchen”

  1. nataliadecuba March 11, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Great advice!!!! I love the price watch … really rounds out the ideas!

    • chefshellina March 11, 2011 at 11:56 am #

      I think it’s important that I share how much it actually costs me- it IS a “frugal” blog after all. Did you know many family pay up to $7 per meal when they go out to eat? Incredible. It doesn’t have to be that way! 🙂

  2. literarychicks78 March 11, 2011 at 1:08 pm #

    I would mix up regular, rolled, sugar cookie dough, color it four different colors and give the kids a ball of each color and a cookie sheet. They could create to their hearts content: frogs, turtles, funny looking people. And when they were done creating, we would pop their works of art into the oven for baking. Their favorite creation, a cookie pizza, was a joint project. Complete with grape jelly instead of pizza sauce, cookie mushrooms, pepperoni and peppers, this work of art tasted great. The kids are all grown, but a scaled down version, without the colors and fancy shapes, still appears in our house at times today.
    Another thing that would work well, with children that are of reading age, are the cookie mixes in a jar. They are wonderful for gifts, but they are also great for junior cooks. Make them up and put them in plastic, quart mayonaise jars (kid safe). Tape the recipe on the jar. You can make up several of them at a time and keep them on the shelf. There are few ingredients for the child to add and easy directions to follow. For older children you can simply place the ingredients, a bowl, spoon, and a couple of cookie sheets on the table and let them bake like the big folks. They will need your assistance putting their cookies in the oven.
    (Caution: You may end up eating a few egg shells!)

    • chefshellina March 11, 2011 at 1:10 pm #

      I LOVE this idea! Kids enjoy making desserts- one year I helped my goddaughters put together cookie mixes for their classmates for Christmas. We had so much fun. Thanks for the ideas! (And yeah, eggshells- natural consequence. lol)

  3. pageturnershollow March 17, 2011 at 2:18 pm #

    I do something similar with Little Smokies instead of hot dogs and they go over great with kids AND kids at heart.

    • chefshellina March 17, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

      Oh yeah- and can I just say- I love little smokies, too. I’ll have to try them in the pigs/blankets recipe. thanks for commenting! 🙂

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