By Flip Shelton

One of the best investments of our time and energy is to teach our kids to cook. Not only is it a fun activity, but it creates some lovely ‘we’ time and it’s an excellent life skill plus as far as lessons go – it covers maths, science, reading and comprehension and communication.

It’s never too early or too late to teach your kids to cook and there is always something for everyone to do – no matter what their age.

Flip Shelton shares her favourite easy recipes to cook with children

Celebrity chef, Flip Shelton is a mother who’s passionate about good food and healthy food choices.

Little ones might be given a special safe vantage spot to watch the action. They can be in-charge of getting out a couple of easy to reach implements – a mixing bowl and spoon perhaps. Maybe they can shell some peas or be the chief taste-tester. All very important jobs!

Some kids might like to read the recipe and measure out ingredients or roll the dough or energy balls.

Older kids can use knives and a processor, stirring hot pots or handling hot baking trays, but as adults we need to always supervise when these things are being done.

WATCH: Bec Judd’s easy flourless chocolate cake recipe

Two simple ways to get the kids cooking

If your kids are new to the kitchen there are two approaches you could take – depending on their personality and age. One approach is to ask what they would like to cook and make that. This could be their favourite pasta sauce or an Anzac.

A delicious treat or yummy meal at the end of the activity is great motivation. Or perhaps they would like to experiment and make a crazy pasta sauce or chocolate pizza. Maybe it’s not what you want cooked – but that doesn’t matter right now. Remember you catch bees with honey than vinegar!

A second approach is to suggest that you cook something together. Find a recipe that you know works well because nothing succeeds like success, and this result will likely encourage the kid(s) into the kitchen again.

Make the kitchen a Fun Factory and drop all expectations of control, the end product or the mess that will result. For starters, this is not the MasterChef final and you are not feeding anyone else so there are no judgements here! Secondly, no-one has ever died of a messy kitchen. It’s just mess and it can be tidied up – and no-one is calling in anytime soon so there is no rush to clean up.

Smart Snacks

Flip Shelton has written for various magazines, newspapers and online publications, and ten years ago established her own muesli range, ‘Flip Shelton’s Natural Muesli’. Smart Snacks is her third cookbook.

Research tells us that children who are involved in food preparation and cooking have a greater appreciation of the food they are eating and are more likely to eat it.

My five favourite simple recipes are:

1. Damper: This requires less finesse than cooking scones are can be made sweet – with some currants and other dried fruit or savoury with some cheese and veggies.

2. Balls: Pick your favourite flavour (I’ve got fourteen recipes in my book Smart Snacks) and have fun! All you need to do is add all the ingredients to a processor, blend for 1-2 minutes and roll into balls.

3. Banana Bread: There are so many recipes but please choose one with minimal sugar and butter and use the sweetness and stickiness of the bananas to shine through to make it a healthful option. And the fantastic aroma will fill your kitchen.

4. Hummus Dip: This is a fantastic way to pack a nutritional punch especially if you sub the dried crackers out for the colour veggie sticks using red pepper, carrot, celery, snow peas – and green apple!

5. Homemade popcorn: Just ¼ cup of kernels put in a brown bag and cooked on HIGH for two minutes in the microwave results in ten times the volume! Or a little olive oil in a large saucepan will create the same result. Either way it’s fun to listen to the popping!

Protein and energy balls just take a few minutes and are a great recipe to make with kids.

Flip Shelton is a mother who’s passionate about good food and healthy food choices. For over 20 years she has inspired people about food on radio and TV, starting at Melbourne’s 3RRR radio station and continuing with regular spots including Good Morning Australia and Surprise Chef, and countless cooking demonstrations.