Preparing food is a big part of Montessori classrooms for young children, and for good reason. It helps develop independence and confidence as children see that they can make food for themselves. It also helps develop organizational skills, as things must be done in a certain order for a recipe to be successful. Measuring ingredients and deciphering recipes are also great ways to practice math and reading skills in a real life situation.

Even very young children can help with things like gathering ingredients, measuring and adding ingredients, mixing, scrubbing fruits and vegetables and cleaning up afterward. If your child enjoys helping in the kitchen though, you can take it so much further.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

1. Fresh orange juice

With citrus season in full swing, it’s a great time to break out the juicer. Using a small, simple juicer, children of two or three can be successful making fresh juice with a little help.

2. Baked oatmeal

If your child enjoys baking, preparing a baked oatmeal dish can be a great weekend morning activity. If your little one is anything like mine, he’ll be up bright and early, leaving plenty of time for the oatmeal to bake before everyone is ready for breakfast. There are so many wholesome recipes available, making it easy to find one your family will enjoy.

3. Homemade Granola

At its roots, granola is simple and healthy, made of oats, nuts, seeds and dried fruit. So many store-bought versions are loaded with sugar though. Making granola at home is super easy, not to mention cost-effective, and lets you control the ingredients. Even young children could make almost the whole recipe by themselves too, as it mostly involves adding ingredients to a big bowl and mixing.

4. Quiche

Quiche is a great thing to make with kids because beating eggs is a fun task that young children can do independently. They can use a small whisk or a hand mixer. Many children will also enjoy helping to wash and chop the vegetables. You can make the quiche lighter by using less cheese or omitting the crust if you wish to do so.

5. Fruit salad

Every child is different, but many children are ready to help chop things in the kitchen when they are around three to four years old. These wavy choppers are a great way to introduce chopping without involving sharp knives. Of course it’s still important to give a lesson on using the chopper safely and to supervise while your child is becoming comfortable with the tool. Protective gloves are also available when your child is ready to use a real knife.

A fruit salad is a great thing to make together as your little one practices his chopping skills. If he’s just beginning, you can assign him the easier fruits like bananas while you tackle the tougher ones like apples or grapes.

Alternatively, try fruit kebabs! Your child can help thread sliced fruit onto skewers for a tasty snack.

6. Vegetable soup

Making vegetable soup is another fun and healthy cooking project for children learning to chop. Soup recipes are so adaptable and hard to mess up and many children are much more interested in eating vegetables if they helped with the preparation.

7. Smoothies

Even many picky children love smoothies and it can be a tasty way to incorporate fruits (and vegetables!) into your child’s diet. Your child can help measure the ingredients and dump them into the blender. This is a great one for even the smallest chefs to help with.

8. Homemade crackers

If your child likes baking cookies with you, making healthy crackers together can be a fun twist on the activity. Some recipes simply involve spreading the dough on the pan and breaking into crackers after it bakes, while others let your child choose a fun cookie cutter to cut out shapes.

9. Kale chips

Even young toddlers can help tear kale leaves into little pieces and spread them on a cookie sheet. I love recipes like this for introducing kale to children who don’t yet have molars and can’t easily chew the raw leaves.

10. Homemade bread

Making bread is a little more involved, but it’s also a really fun thing for children to help with. If your child is too young to measure, you can pre-measure the ingredients and invite your child to help mix. Kneading the dough and watching it rise can be fascinating for children. Try this whole wheat version or gluten free option, depending on your family’s needs.

11. Pizza

If your child likes to help in the kitchen, having a weekly pizza night can be a really fun tradition. You can control the ingredients to make it a little healthier and kids can make their own individual pizzas and choose their toppings. Try using mini pizza pans and a kid-friendly pizza cutter to make it even more fun.

12. Veggie burgers

If you’re not comfortable with your child handling raw meat (so hard to keep those little fingers out of mouths…), making veggie burgers can be a fun way to get your child involved with the entrée. Mixing the ingredients and forming the burgers is really fun for children who enjoy getting messy. This is my personal favorite recipe, but there are so many to choose from!

13. Guacamole

Guacamole can be as simple as mashed avocado with a little lime juice and salt, or you can follow a more formal recipe. Either way, mashing avocado is a fun task for children to do, whether with a fork or with a mini potato masher.

14. Hummus

For a chunkier hummus, let your child mash some cooked chickpeas in a bowl and then stir in the other ingredients. For a smoother option, let them measure the ingredients and add them to the food processor.

15. Cutting herbs

If your child can safely use scissors, she can help you cut herbs. This is a great task to involve your child with while you’re making dinner, since you can throw fresh herbs on almost anything.

Once you start cooking with your child, you will see things they can help with every time you cook. This can be a great bonding experience and a wonderful way to make dinner time a little less stressful and a lot more fun.