Experts agree that kids who regularly enjoy breakfast learn better and are more likely to maintain a healthy weight. And for busy parents, finding ways to improve the morning routine is usually a never-ending quest.
But if the idea of setting your kids loose in the kitchen first thing in the morning sounds more like a bad dream scenario versus a good game plan, consider this: the secret strategy for helping kids become better acquainted with making their own breakfast actually starts well before morning, when there’s more time for any necessary supervision.
The truth is that breakfast meals can be quite simple, so it is actually the ideal time to encourage some kitchen independence. And there are important long-term rewards to reap along the way. Here’s how to set your kids up for kitchen success in the breakfast department – and maybe buy yourself a few extra minutes in the shower.
Develop a Menu Together: You probably know your kids’ favorite breakfast foods like a short-order cook, but take the time to sit down and discuss what dishes they would enjoy making. Enlist their help in writing down a menu and figuring out which ingredients you already have on hand. If possible, take them grocery shopping with you, too.
LONG-RANGE BONUS: Making a menu together can also help you introduce your kids to new foods. Studies show that kids are more motivated to try foods when they’ve helped select them.
Set Up a Breakfast Station: Once you’ve planned a menu, dedicate some kitchen space to the supplies they’ll need so your kid can find everything in the morning without needing your help. Make sure it is all in easy reach.
LONG-RANGE BONUS: You’ll have an easier time seeing at a glance when their ingredients are running low.
Review the Rules: Every kid learns at their own pace, so it is important to assess where your child stands when it comes to handling various kitchen equipment safely and develop ground rules accordingly. Young kids (grades K-2) are probably best suited for measuring and mixing ingredients. If you have older kids (grades 6+), think about whether they are ready to use a stovetop or if the microwave is a better choice. If your kids fall in between these ranges (grades 3-5), consider whether they might be ready to handle a sharp knife with supervision or if they should still stick to butter knives. Write down your family’s safety rules as a helpful reminder and post them in the breakfast station.
LONG-RANGE BONUS: Learning to follow rules is an important life lesson, and kitchen rules are no exception. When kids perceive having some independence in the kitchen as a privilege with clear-cut consequences if they break the rules, they can learn to apply the same logic in other areas of their life.
Supervise Preparing Ingredients: Encourage planning ahead with each recipe so that your child has most of the work done the night beforehand and can enjoy as much independence as possible. Try to offer advice only when needed. For example, some kids may need help measuring or chopping ingredients safely while others may be able to master all the steps (including cleanup), so they have truly “grab-and-go” breakfasts at the ready.
LONG-RANGE BONUS: Not only can a night-before prep session offer a great way to spend time together, the art of following a recipe requires kids to practice important math skills. Let them figure out how to cut a recipe in half or determine the right metric conversions. And keep in mind there are a slew of helpful kitchen calculators on the internet in case you get stumped, too.
Overnight Oatmeal. Combine equal parts rolled oats and milk in a mason jar, cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, finish with your favorite toppings for a super easy breakfast.
Quiche Cups. Fill the cups of a lightly oiled muffin tin 2⁄3 full of a mix of beaten eggs, shredded cheese and your favorite vegetables. Bake in a 350 F oven until puffed and lightly browned. When cool, refrigerate in a resealable plastic bag.
No-Bake Breakfast Bars. Pulse 1 cup chopped dates in a food processor until they have a smooth, dough-like consistency, then combine in a bowl with ¼ cup honey, ¼ cup smooth peanut butter, 1 cup roasted almonds and 1½ cups oatmeal. Stir until thoroughly combined, then press the mixture into an 8×8 pan lined with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 20 minutes until firm, then cut into bars.
Yogurt Parfait. Layer fresh berries and vanilla yogurt into a cup and top with a sprinkling of granola.
Peanut Butter-Strawberry Roll Ups. Spread a thin layer of peanut butter (or other nut butter) on a whole wheat tortilla and top with thinly sliced strawberries. Roll up tightly into a log shape and slice into 1″ rounds. If made the night before, refrigerate before serving.
Peanut Butter and Banana Whole Wheat Pancakes. Try these delicious Mindful pancakes for breakfast.