Three Keys to Making Any Meal Kid-Friendly

BY: Charles Austin |Apr 27, 2016

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On the surface, Leanne Brown’s cookbook Good and Cheap is a guide to eating well on a tight budget. But upon further examination, it’s also a testament to the fact that everyone can cook—including kids.

“People always think kids are picky,” Brown said. “They're not. I mean, they can be picky, but they’re also interested in [learning new] things.”

Still, it can be hard to know where to start. That’s why after talking to Brown about her book, recipes, and food philosophy, we were able to put together a few instructive tips for cooking with kids.

Let kids choose what’s for dinner

Kids should play a role in choosing what they eat. Let kids know that cooking is an opportunity. “If you are involved with this, then you get to have more of a say in what we're eating. You can make things exactly to your taste," Brown said.

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Obviously, a plate of Snickers and Pop-Tarts isn’t going to fly as a meal. But even if kids aren’t mature enough to design the menu, they can still help shape it. For example, kids can grate parmesan to garnish their pasta or choose between shredded and sliced carrots in their salads. But never allow them to choose the salad dressing.

Cooking and creativity go hand in hand

In Good and Cheap, Brown presents cooking as a chance to use your imagination. Recipes aren’t set in stone, they’re merely starting points that you—and your kids—can embellish and make your own. Kids may never jump at the opportunity to eat broccoli, but maybe there’s a seasoning or dip that makes the veggie more palatable.

Involve kids outside the kitchen, too. Grocery shopping is a chance to engage kids’ minds. If they find plain yogurt boring, let them choose the fruit or nuts to mix in. The same goes for the choice of herbs and spices in a spaghetti sauce or the kinds of lizard tails to use a witch’s broth.

Making meals means all hands on deck

“It’s really not fair that the burden for providing meals should fall upon one person,” Brown said, especially because the task includes more than cooking. But it’s far less cumbersome when the entire household is involved. So if kids don’t want to cook, they can contribute in a number of ways. A more hands-on child can do the dishes or set the table, whereas a more cerebral child may read recipes aloud or point a telescope out the kitchen window toward the stars, bringing the smallness of our lives into stark relief.

Photo of Leanne Brown courtesy of Jordan Matter

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