Advice for cooking/baking with a five year old: recipes/tips welcome!

I will soon be spending part of the summer with my best friend's soon to be five year old girl. As the 'honourable auntie' I would love to get her into my favourite past time, cooking and baking.
As I do not have kids myself, I was wondering if mom's/dad's/auntie's/uncle's/grandma's/grandpa's... out there have tips on recipes that kids love and that they can actively help making and also what kind of tasks in the cooking/baking process are great to get kids involved in.
Thank you so much for your help!



Melissa H. July 26, 2015
Here is a great tutorial on baking with little ones! Really any cookie, brownie, or cake recipe will do if you are patient!
jlhogan July 20, 2015
My 5 year old son loves to make Merrill's banana bread. It's a great recipe to make with kids because it only needs one bowl and no special equipment, and it's very forgiving. We reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup, add a bit of vanilla extract and cinnamon and some chocolate chips. 5 year olds can be pretty competent and are not quite as chaotic as 3 year olds, but be prepared to tolerate some mess. Don't forget to let her smell any spices and, most importantly, lick the bowl.
Angela July 19, 2015
Aimee at Simple Bites has nice lists for different ages of kids. Here's the link to the 3-5 year olds:
ChefJune July 16, 2015
Putting the thumbprint and jam in the center of that type of cookie would also be fun and just a bit different from cutting out sugar cookies, which I also enjoyed as a toddler. a five-year-old would likely be able to stir up some brownies. (When I was that size we made them in a bowl with a spoon rather than in an electric mixer.)
Lois F. July 10, 2015
Love making barefoot contessa shortbread cookies with this age group. The mixing, chilling, rolling, and cutting out are great. You can use cutters of all different shapes and sizes and colored sanding sugar to decorate.
Franziska July 11, 2015
Thank you for your advice Lois, you can never go wrong with a Barefoot Contessa recipe. :)
Love the idea of using different cutters/shapes. May let her pick some out at the store.
burning-ice July 10, 2015
I would actually let her cut something - give her a good knife that has the right size for her to handle and let her cut something like strawberries or zucchini. Children will feel incredibly grown-up when you trust them enough to let them do that - supervised of course! My daughter and her friends were taught how to use knives at kindergarten and they felt so proud! They were very cautious, of course, you just have to explain about the blade. It's a real boost for their confidence.
Franziska July 10, 2015
Thank you for your advice! Cutting strawberries sounds like a great way to introduce some knife skills. I will check with her mom to see what she thinks about that! (And maybe the distance to the nearest ER ;))
Brenna R. July 10, 2015
Let her do the simple stuff so she'll feel really accomplished! Any fun popsicle-y or ice cream-y thing is always TONS of fun to make and to eat.
Franziska July 10, 2015
Brenna, thank you for your advice. Love the idea of making popsicles. And after she smeared them all over herself eating them I can just hop into the pool with her!
Kristen W. July 10, 2015
My 6 yr. old LOVES decorating cookies! Decorating anything with colored icing, sprinkles, etc. is highly engaging for her. Salad might not be too palatable for a 5 yr. old, but my kid loves tearing lettuce and spinning it dry. There is an article on this site for yogurt biscuits without a recipe that comes to mind also -- you can add honey to the dough to sweeten it up for her. It's nice to do with a kid b/c you just dump a few ingredients in a bowl and eyeball the quantities it until it's the right consistency. No measuring at all! But as others have said, all things doughy and all things sweet are generally a good bet.
Franziska July 10, 2015
Kristen, thank you for your advice. I think decorating cookies might be my first try to get her into the kitchen and see how she enjoys that!
Dona July 9, 2015
At that age my grandchildren really loved decorating cookies. I always had the cookies made and cut out, ready to go. And I made the icing and had the colors in little bowls with a small offset spatula. Add sprinkles and jimmies and they loved it. At that age they had no patience for the cookie making and cooling.

Franziska July 10, 2015
Who doesn't love sprinkles? :) I think you can never be too old for those. Thank you for your advice Dona!
amysarah July 9, 2015
5 is young! I cooked with my kids at that age, but I wouldn't worry about techniques, or anything complicated. At this point the most important thing is to get and hold her attention, make cooking something fun that they want to do. Most kids like sweets, pizza, start there. Does she love strawberries? Make strawberry shortcake. Pizza? (maybe introducing some more interesting toppings than the norm.) You get the idea. Engage her on her own terms - once she's interested and thinks of cooking as a fun activity, there's plenty of time to present more complex ideas.
Greenstuff July 9, 2015
I agree with amysarah, at 5, it's more important to have a fun project than it is to try to teach technique. Pizza and her other suggestions are spot on. For something unexpected--one of the most fun cooking projects I've done with a 5 year old was fortune cookies. She got into the fortunes as well as the cookies.
Franziska July 10, 2015
Amy Sarah and Chris, thank you for your advice. Letting her choose toppings for pizza sounds like a fab idea.
Chris, do you happen to have the recipe for those fortune cookies?
Greenstuff July 10, 2015
I do still have the fortune cookie recipe; it's handwritten, and I think I got it from a friend who taught kindergarten.

Mix 3 egg whites, 3/4 cup sugar, and 1/8 teaspoon salt.
Add, one at a time, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 teaspoon instant tea (we either left that out or ground up a little tea), 2 tablespoons water, 1/2 cup melted butter.

Let batter chill for 30 minutes.

Heat oven to 350.
Grease cookie sheets. Drop one teaspoon of batter onto the sheet, and spread it around until it's about 4 inches across. Repeat--you won't get many cookies on a sheet (she wrote that it was only two cookies per sheet, but that must have been a kindergarten-sized cookie sheet).

Bake 3-5 minutes until brown. Remove from oven, place your fortune on half a cookie, fold over, and pinch into fortune cookie shape.

Set cookies in an egg carton to cool.
Greenstuff July 10, 2015
Whoops; spread the batter until it's 3 inches across, not 4.
Franziska July 11, 2015
Chris, thank you for sharing this wonderful recipe with me! I really appreciate it!
dinner A. July 9, 2015
I don't have kids either, but I do remember (all positive memories!) some baking I did around that age. I only remember shaping the dough -- using cookie cutters to make sugar cookies animals with my grandma, and rolling and tying up pretzels with my mom. I suspect that part of baking is usually more fun around age 5 than actually making the dough, so you could make the dough before involving your honorary niece, depending on how interested she seems and how long of an attention span she has. Cookies and pretzels also have the bonus (for everyone really, but especially kids) of a short baking and cooling time -- quick gratification!

I also bet mashing things would be a hit -- guacamole? mashed potatoes?
Franziska July 10, 2015
Smashing things would be so much fun, you are right! And since she is already planning on throwing a Princess Tea Party with me, sugar cookies should be a hit as well! Thank you!
lastnightsdinner July 9, 2015
My 3.5 year old son loves making pizza dough with his daddy, and pasta dough or Merrill's cream biscuits with me! He loves to scoop and measure, dump ingredients into mixing bowls, knead doughs by hand, and stir or whisk. I'm planning to start knife skills training soon by giving him a butter knife to cut soft things, which was a great tip from Dash and Bella.
dinner A. July 9, 2015
I cut my finger really badly with a butter knife as a little kid, because I tried to cut up a carrot! I was probably unusually stubborn in attempting that.
Franziska July 10, 2015
Pizza is always a great idea! Thank you for your advice!
Franziska July 10, 2015
Dinner at Ten - I think we were quite similar as kids. Stubborn little buggers ;)
keg72 July 9, 2015
Most kids love sweets. I'd suggest brownies and different types of cookies. In particular, kids that age love cutting out sugar cookies (using cookie cutters) and then decorating their cookies. That's an easy hit! I'd also suggest making pizza dough and then letting your little friend top her pizza with sauce and cheese and whatever else she likes.

In terms of what tasks kids that age can do, I'd suggest the following:
1. after you measure an ingredient, let her dump it in the bowl
2. stirring
3. turning on and off the mixer/food processer (with your direct supervision) -- this makes kids feel very grown up and trusted
4. dipping chicken in eggs and then bread crumbs
5. picking herbs off the stems (e.g., thyme leaves) -- this one gets old quickly, though
6. shucking corn

At that age, I'd keep a kid away from heat and away from anything sharp.
Franziska July 10, 2015
As I love to bake, I think letting her measure and dump things into a bowl is a great idea. I already have a recipe in mind, thank you!
Nancy July 9, 2015
If your friends have a garden, make a point of harvesting fruits and vegetables from it as they ripen, and cook with them. It will help teach her where her food comes from.
If they dont have a garden (and even if they do, for wider experience), take a field trip to a farm or farmers market, for her to see more produce, animals, closer to their origin. Let her pick some foods to buy, and then cook from that shopping.
teach her some non-knife prep skills and let her benefit from eating those foods, for example: shelling peas, the difference between washing lettuce and washing spinach, arranging a composed salad, garnishing a soup.
Nancy July 10, 2015
forgot to mention - ask her what she most loves to eat and/or wants to learn to make. then gear the shared cooking experiences to those foods.
Franziska July 10, 2015
Nancy, I wonderful idea taking her to the farmer's market and letting her pick foods. Thank you for your advice!
C S. July 9, 2015
when I was a kid, my mom made all of our bread and by the time I was five I knew how to knead the dough and shape rolls dipping them in melted butter and poppy seeds before putting them in the pan. It's very forgiving dough. Yesterday, I made pasta with a 10 year old. If you get it kneaded and then let her help with the rolling out part it might be fun. Neither of these need heat or knives and the finished product is a dramatic difference from the start.
Franziska July 10, 2015
I love the idea of letting her shape dinner rolls and mess with the mixture, fantastic advice! Thank you!
Nancy July 15, 2015
Yes to the home-made pasta, and related to that, home-made crackers. Just made a batch after a long time not making them and realized they might be fun for a child. You can customized them...cut in squares, rounds, whatever shape you like, top with nuts, seeds, spices.
Both the pasta and cracker dough can be thinned using a rolling pin or a pasta roller, then given final shaping and baking.
Recommended by Food52