Cooking with kids can be challenging and it takes a good amount of time in the kitchen — and a few messes along the way — to know what your kids are really capable of. That's why we turned to our Allstars, the super users of this site, who are avid home cooks, and have spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen. They give us their best tips on cooking with kids.

By Samantha Lande
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Cooking with your kids can be fun, but there's no denying the very thought of it can also be daunting. Still, whether you're spending a long weekend at home or helping prepare a holiday surprise, the rewards of cooking with your kids far exceed any of the stress or worry about a mess or sloppy topping. But if you're new to cooking with your kids, you may learn a few things from some cooking-with-kids pros. So we turned to our Allstars, the super users of our community, for their best tips on cooking with kids:

Tip #1: Start Small

Cooking with kids doesn't have to mean preparing a huge meal; it could just be involving them in a few steps. Arich01 says," I always started little, like measuring cups! They can scoop and pour, then later learn fractions!"

Mrsaltmiller agrees, "The kids loved helping me in the kitchen, so I always found little jobs for them to do." She adds, "Letting them stir, crack eggs, put ingredients into a bowl, turn the mixer on and off — they were little things but made them feel so special and helpful! As they got older, their jobs grew larger, and now they can cook and bake for me."

Plasmachef0702 started with teaching her kids the safety basics before diving into the actual cooking. "How to turn on/off the stove, how to properly hold a knife and curl your fingers, what to do if a knife falls, and EVERYTHING on a stovetop is hot," she says.

tcasa does some prep work to ensure success in the kitchen. "I have found they are at their best when the dough or mixture is pre-mixed or pre-measured. Young kids, like ages two to four, are great at small tasks such as dumping ingredients."

Try These: Kid Chef Recipes

Tip #2: Give Them Ownership

Once kids have mastered the basics, it's time to give them ownership of bigger roles in the kitchen. Bibi taught her granddaughter how to make a hot breakfast: "My granddaughter always enjoys scrambled eggs and bacon for breakfast after she spends the night. I taught her how to make a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, and toast, so she can have an alternative to cold cereal on school mornings."

Fabeverydayblog taught her kids the basics of her gravy, then gradually let them take more ownership. "I started letting my older son be in charge of the seasonings for our chicken gravy, guiding and taste-testing with him, but now it's his job completely, so the gravy is his! He is 10 and makes it by my side while I make fried chicken."

Judy in Delaware bonds with her grandsons in the kitchen: "I taught my grandsons first to make little smokies in crescent rolls. They were a great success and so easy. They've helped me make cookies when they've been here, and when they request chicken and dumplings, their job is to roll out and cut the dough flat dumplings."

Tip #3: Embrace the Mess

Yes, cooking with kids can get messy but don't let that stop you. In fact, for thedailygourmet, some of her most favorite memories are when cooking with her niece got a little messy. "I taught my niece to view the kitchen as a playground. Face it kitchen toys ARE cool, but require adult supervision when using them," she says. "The best tip is for an adult to embrace the small messes. Let them happen. My niece learned it was okay if flour was spilled, because the goal was a tasty treat and to have fun!"

Mrswolfie agrees, "I always invited my kids into the kitchen with me, and number one rule was it was fun," she says. "No mess was too much, and there was no such thing as perfect. Food means joy in our house, and both kids love to cook to this day."

Tip #4: Let Them Take the Reins

Once you've taught the building blocks to cooking, it's time to let the kids try it on their own (with supervision, of course).

For Paula, she was determined to make sure her kids were independent in the kitchen because her father was not: "By the time they both went to college — actually much sooner — they could make entire meals. I started in elementary school with them packing their own lunches, making sandwiches and adding chips, fruit, and a drink. In high school, they could read and follow recipes and make meals like tacos, hamburgers, grilled chicken, mashed potatoes."

Diana71 tried to expose her kids to every aspect of cooking, and it paid off. "When I cooked with my kids, I involved them in every step — picking out the recipe, shopping for ingredients, mise en place, and all the steps in prep and cooking! They were progressively given more responsibility as they got older. Sooner than I expected, they were planning and making our family meals themselves!"

JoeyJoan let her granddaughter develop her own recipes, even if she created things like chicken nugget burritos —which became a house favorite. "[The recipes] were simple and easy, but she always ate her best when she created her own meal," she said."We loved seeing her satisfied, with a proud face, so we would every bite."

Howard worked with his kids to find something they loved, and they tried recipes out over the course of a few months. For the final project he had them make a recipe, all their own, from what they learned. "Quality time with them at that age was great, and now we have recipes to remind us how valuable the time was!"

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