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El Segundo Eats: Get Your Kids Cooking!

Summer is the perfect time to get your kids creating in the kitchen. Here's how to start.

By Jenifer Antonelli

A boy pours flour into a measuring cup in a home kitchen
Kids can participate in cooking and baking in plenty of ways!

So school is out and the kids are already getting a bit bored—and it’s only July! And perhaps you are running out of tricks for pulling them away from their electronic devices. Good news: summertime is the perfect opportunity for kids to unplug and enjoy making some edible art.

In my experience, even the pickiest eaters will expand their palates if they feel a sense of ownership by helping prep the food or create their own culinary masterpieces. Try asking the kiddos to help you make dinner by safely peeling and chopping vegetables. Afraid they might cut themselves? Opinel makes an awesome Le Petit Chef kit (pictured) for budding young chefs to learn how to correctly hold a knife and peeler, and it comes with a finger guard for added safety. Once they’ve mastered the knife (and they can!), your kids can practice using their new skills to make a crudité platter as a snack to serve with hummus, guacamole, or ranch dressing.

A child-safe knife and vegetable peeler kit by Opinel
Child-friendly knife kits, such as this one by Opinel, include good-quality tools with added safety features.

Inspire your junior chef with a trip to the bookstore or the El Segundo Public Library. There are so many fun kids’ cookbooks based on their favorite characters, including Disney Princesses, Harry Potter, and Minecraft. The recipes are easy to follow and may inspire your kids to try ingredients they otherwise might not put past their lips. Give them some sticky notes to bookmark the recipes they would like to try first, then give it a go! (This counts as summer reading, too!)

Is it your turn to host a playdate? Why not have a pizza-making party or set up a make-your-own-taco bar? Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s sell pre-made balls of refrigerated pizza dough, plus pizza sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese as well as an assortment of possible toppings, including pepperoni, sliced mushrooms, and sliced black olives. For a taco bar, start by simply cooking up a pound of ground beef or turkey with a packet of taco seasoning, or shred a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a no-cook option. Vegetarian? El Segundo’s own Beyond Meat company sells packages of Beyond Beef Crumbles Feisty for quick and easy plant-based tacos. Serve your base filling with hard shells or warmed tortillas, then let the kids get creative with their favorite toppings, such as shredded lettuce, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, and guacamole.

Homemade pizza with vegetable toppings
Bring the playdate into your kitchen by supervising a make-your-own-pizza activity.

Looking for a way to cool off? Making homemade frozen treats is a great way to both keep the kids busy and stock your freezer with some healthier dessert options. Ice pops are simple to make, and there are a wealth of recipes online for you to choose from. Keep it simple with just plain fruit juice, or get your blender involved with some pureed fruit or a creamy version with yogurt, coconut milk, or cream. There are so many different, cute molds you can buy to make it easy to shape and freeze your creations. If you have an ice-cream maker and a little more time on your hands, you can make some amazing sorbet and ice-cream flavors at home, too. To get you started, I recommend the book Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home, in which the author shares how to make some of her gourmet and unique sweet treats in your own kitchen.

Hopefully, these activities will keep the kids full and entertained this summer. Maybe they’ll love cooking so much, they will want to add making dinner to their chore chart! (Fingers crossed!)

Jenifer Antonelli is the owner of Vino and Viand Personal Chef Services. @vinoandviand on Facebook or Instagram.

"El Segundo Eats" is sponsored by Good Stuff restaurant in El Segundo.

This story appears in The El Segundo Scene's July 2019 issue.

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