Spring break is a welcome time in the school year. While many families travel during this time, it's not always feasible to take a big trip. There are many ways to make a staycation special and create memories as a family, like making special foods and involving your kids in the cooking process — after all, everyone needs to eat. Cooking with your kids can increase their confidence in the kitchen, build their independence and open them up to new foods.
One place to start is with recreating their restaurant favorites. According to data from GrubHub, the most popular kids takeout orders of 2021 have been: BLTs, cheeseburger sliders, mini corn dogs, French toast, fish and chips, spaghetti and meatballs, mac and cheese, chicken wings, enchiladas and chocolate chip pancakes. You can start with those or get in the kitchen and try these ideas for spring break staycation cooking projects.
Making bread can be such a great science lesson for kids — and a lesson in patience too. Waiting for dough to rise can feel like it takes forever when kiddos are involved, but the reward of fresh from the oven bread is sure to show them it's worth it. Make a loaf of pullman bread together to show that sliced bread doesn't grow on grocery store shelves, then use it to make an epic maple apple grilled cheese sandwich. Another great bread recipe to make as a family is challah, whether it's to celebrate shabbat or just to have the makings for the best ever French toast sticks.
Alternately, if your kids are impatient you can start by making a flatbread like roti, which does not require rising time. Whatever recipe you choose, be prepared for a bit of a mess so you can give your kids the freedom and confidence to measure, stir and knead. It's also fun to give them their own little piece of dough to shape and bake however they like.
Pizza is one of the most enjoyable things to make together as a family. Grab some premade dough from the grocery store or your local pizzeria, or start from scratch by making your own traditional pizza dough or, for some added nutrition, a whole-grain pizza crust. Give the kids their own ball of dough to roll out and top with whatever they like. They may even be prone to trying some new veggies if they are on a pizza of their own making.
Baking is the classic kids in the kitchen activity, and the possibilities are endless. If you have one banana bread recipe, you have endless possibilities for customization, so let your kids get creative with the mix-ins. (But if you need more guidance, we have banana bread recipes for every day of the week.) Or let your child choose from one of our 50 favorite cookie recipes to make together. If you want to keep it super simple, then start with a box cake mix — you’ll be surprised at all the things you can make with it!
Making pasta from scratch may seem intimidating, but it’s really just flour and water. Homemade egg noodles are a great place to start since you don’t need any special equipment. And then the kids can enjoy the fruits of their labor plain, with a little butter, or in a soup made with homemade vegetable stock or chicken stock.
If the weather is warming up, then it’s time to fire up the grill and there is no reason not to involve the kids. Let them pick whether they want a pizza slider burger, chicken burgers or a classic American burger. Make them all the way from scratch and teach them how to make their own potato buns, which they can make in slider or large sizes. Then they can get into the basics of pickling with an easy and quick bread and butter pickle recipe to serve on the side. You can teach them that condiments don’t grow on supermarket shelves with a lesson in homemade barbecue sauce or mayonnaise. If you really want to blow their little minds, show the kiddos how to make grilled doughnuts. Now that’s something they’ll remember.
Perhaps the simplest non-cooking cooking endeavor to take on with your kids — but the most spring break appropriate — is smoothie making. Kids of all ages will love picking out what goes into those tasty yet nutritious beverages. Though they can experiment with throwing in their favorite ingredients and seeing what happens, recipes can be a good place to learn about proportions and flavor combos. Start with a blueberry banana smoothie, avocado chocolate smoothie (assure them they won’t taste the avocado), a mango berry lime smoothie or a spring-break inspired tropical fruit smoothie.