Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Cooking With Children: Toddlers

From the time they could walk, my kids have helped me in the kitchen. My mum let me bake on my own from an early age, I think I must have been around 9, so it seemed natural to me to have the children in the kitchen with me. If they ask me can they help, my default answer is “yes.” There is always something they can help me do. If I’m baking something, I’ll usually ask one of them to help me. I know that cooking with children can make the task take longer than usual at first, but as they gain experience, skills, and confidence, I’ve found it becomes a help in the long run.

Last week the toddler was all hands on deck.

Cooking with toddlers might sound crazy, but it really is as simple as having them put the chopped or measured ingredients into the pot or bowl; or mash the bananas for the chocolate banana oatmeal; or help you hold the hand beaters as you beat together cookie batter. It might take a little patience from you, but they feel so accomplished. And when you praise their efforts to their siblings, the young toddler, being so proud to have cooked a meal worthy of eating, may even be persuaded to eat the meal himself.

We had extra Kale in our organic box this week. My kids don’t love kale. They don’t like the texture. So I try to find ways of giving it to them without them knowing. Last week I decided to make a kind-of pesto out of it and throw it over some pasta. A proper pesto has pine nuts and parmesan cheese in it, but I didn’t have either so I had to work with what I had, with help from the little man of course.

It was delicious! The kids even liked it and had no idea that they were eating kale.



1 bunch kale, leaves removed
1 medium onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup of oil
Juice of 1 lemon
1 box penne pasta
2 chicken breasts, chopped 1-inch cubed
1/4-1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 carrots, roasted
2 sweet dumpling squash, halved, roasted (any pumpkin squash will do)


1. Cook pasta per directions on the packet.

2. While pasta is cooking, combine kale, onion, garlic, and lemon juice into food processor. Blend until a finely chopped consistency. Add oil, salt, and pepper and blend for 5 seconds. If the consistency of the pesto is too dry, add more oil, a tbsp at a time, until it has the consistency of a dip.

3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in fry pan. Once hot add chicken and cook through.

4. Once pasta is cooked and drained, put pasta back into the saucepan and pour the kale mixture over the pasta. Add cooked chicken, chopped roast carrots, roast squash and mix well. Sprinkle grated cheese over the pasta. If you are a cheese lover, add extra cheese to taste. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: I stirred through roasted carrot and sweet dumpling squash because that was what I had. The squash added a sweet creaminess to the dish that helped balance the slight bitterness of the kale, but when I cook this again I think I’ll swap the roasted carrot with grilled cherry tomatoes. They will look so much prettier and be a better match for the dish.

The 2 older girls were also in the kitchen last week.

E-Age-8 made bread (in a bread machine) all by herself. There is nothing like the smell of fresh homemade bread. Especially when it’s made by your 8-year-old.

A-Age-10 prepared and browned the chicken for the chicken goulash. A staple mid-week meal in our home.

She also made my birthday cake on her own from scratch. This chocolate cake is so good! I forgot to take a picture of the cake before we hoed into it, but here is a pic of what remained of it after the birthday celebration.

What have your children been cooking recently?

I’m thinking of making “cooking with children” a regular segment on the blog. If you want to see more recipes and cooking with children posts, let me know in the comments.

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  1. Hollie Cloherty

    January 25, 2017 at 3:24 am

    Hey Tania, this is Hollie Cloherty from Aus. I like chicken pesto pasta so I like ur post. I’m definitely writing down ur recipe, love how it’s got kale and how you’ve improvised so much. I think it’s fantastic u cook with ur children especially with ur toddler. I love to cook things with the children at the Kinder where I work. Go A making ur mums birthday cake!!!Does she remember her Sunday school teacher? Was she like 5 or 6 when she went to America? Is dumpling squash like sweet potato or pumpkin? Thanks Tania🙂

    • Hi Hollie! Thanks for stopping by. A-Age-10 does have a vague remembrance of you, but she was only 5 when we moved to the states so her memories are more impressions. She doesn’t remember specifics too much. Yes a dumpling squash is like a tiny pumpkin. I would use any kind of pumpkin in Aus. The sweet and creamy texture goes very well with the pasta and kale. That’s great that you cook with your kinder kids. I’m sure they love it.

  2. A great journey of cooks. Always a blessing to watch evolve.

  3. I always think of you as doing such a good job with this! From your example, I try to let the kids do more on their own. Tonight, we had couscous, sweet potatoes, cauliflower and broccoli bowls. No one helped me. 😉 But the other night, Noah made cookies on his own and Molly made muffins. So it’s a start! I definitely agree with making this a regular segment!

    • mmmm… your dinner sounded delicious. I love couscous. Go Noah and Molly! That’s great that they want to bake. Baking is the best place to start with kids. Their hard work in the kitchen is rewarded with being able to eat something yummy when they’re done. You’re doing a great job.

  4. Great Post! I’ll have to share a yummy soup recipe that uses Kale. It holds up well, but loses some of that bitter/tough taste and texture that kids don’t like. It’s always tricky, but so worth it to have the kids (even the boys) learn their way around the kitchen.

    • I’d love to have your recipe for the soup, Maya. I love soup. Kale was a new vegetable for me when we moved to America. I don’t remember seeing it around in Australia and I certainly had never cooked it. So I didn’t know what to do with it. It has been a learning process. Soup with kale sounds delicious.

  5. I’d love to see this be a regular feature. I was a major kitchen contributor as a kid, baking 5-loaf batches of bread at a time, granola, cakes, cookies, and dinners regularly by the time I was 12, but I don’t remember how that all started. Now I’m settling into a new home after moving internationally and trying to integrate my newer Korean cooking knowledge into my long missed Western cooking/baking comfort zone. My oldest is 5 and she wants to be a big help, but I’m still feeling a little lost myself as I try to set up the kitchen and figure out what our family culture of food looks like here in the US, so that my Korean-American hubby feels well fed and the kids taste for authentic Korean food is cultivated, while also bringing me back home to some of my comfort foods. It feels rather crazy. So seeing what you guys are up to at various ages and stages would be great!

    • Hi Erika. Wow, you really were a big help in the kitchen at a young age. My daughters are much the same. Baking is such a great place to start with kids. I can relate to feeling lost in the kitchen after moving internationally. I was a confident cook in Australia but when I came to the U.S. the food that people cooked and talked about here was different. It made me feel that I didn’t know how to cook and like I was starting again. It did take a while to find my feet and incorporate the new American food but not neglect the old food that we loved in Australia. Once I went back to my old favorite recipes I remembered that I did know how to do this cooking thing and the joy returned. But it took a while. Finding the right ingredients was a bit of a battle too, lol. It sounds like your home is going to be filled with wonderful flavors from across the globe. I would love to know a few Korean recipes. I have only had Korean food a couple of times a long time ago, but I remember enjoying it. Good luck and enjoy the journey.

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