Each day, we have a dedicated Family Playtime. During this time, one of our kids gets to pick what we do. (And to keep it simple so I don’t have to keep track of who gets to pick next, I’ve assigned each of the kids a day…). One activity that we do about once a month has been dubbed Family Cooking Contest.
When it’s time for a Family Cooking Contest, the child who picked it is automatically a judge. They can either be a solo judge, or pick one other person to judge with them.
The Judge’s Job in a Family Cooking Contest
As I’m sure you can guess, the judge’s main job is to judge the contest. At the end, they pick the winner (or winners.)
But, they have an important job right at the start. They have to set the rules for the contest. This means they pick:
- What types of food we’re cooking (we’ve done desserts, snacks, drinks, and lunch categories)
- How long each person gets to cook
- The order that people get to cook in
- If any specific ingredients have to be used (Chopped style…)
Once everyone is clear on the rules, we get started.
One at a time, the young chefs come to the kitchen. I’m their helper. They get to tell me what to do.
Typically, we brainstorm ideas. Then the child picks one and we get started.
Younger kids need a lot more help from me. This is a great, low-key way to teach them some kitchen skills. I love that it’s one-on-one.
The older kids are becoming fairly independent. They just put me to work cutting things or gathering ingredients. They are getting so creative in the kitchen.
Since I’m in the kitchen the whole time, I get to let each cook know if anything is “off limits.” Sometimes there’s food stuffs in the cupboards or fridge that is already planned for a meal in our meal plan. They don’t get to use that.
But anything else is fair game, as long as they can prepare it in the time limit.
The kids have so much fun thinking about what to make, and then making it happen.
Each player has to plate enough for each of the judges. Anything that is left doesn’t have to be fancy, but it does need to be cleaned up.
Once they’ve plated, they have to hide their food. This could mean putting it into the fridge or freezer to stay cold. Or putting it on the counter with a towel over it so the next cook can’t spy on them and use the same idea.
What They Make
The first time my daughter Ellie suggested we do a Family Cooking Contest, I was a bit hesitant. I didn’t think there would be enough time or variety.
I was wrong.
The kids amaze me every single time.
- Otter pops melted and turned into “potions”
- Random ingredients tossed in the blender and turned into a smoothie (such as cereal and milk with a few chunks of banana)
- Iced coffee (my entry! :D)
- Chocolate covered marshmallows, pretzels, cereal, and more
- Cracker and cheese tray style plates
- Microwave cakes with sprinkles and whipped cream frosting
- Three ingredient fudge (where you microwave sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, and vanilla)
The kids never copy each other, and always come up with fun ideas.
Here’s a photo of some of the entries to a lunch contest. The entries pictured are a hot dog in a quick biscuit bun, a Lunchable style plate, and ramen soup with corn and bacon.
And here’s a dessert Family Cooking Contest photo from earlier this week:
In that picture, you can see the six entries for the contest. There were:
- My sugar free low-carb blueberry cheesecake
- Crushed Otter pops mixed with whipped cream
- A microwave cake and a scoop of ice cream
- A melted otter pop “potion”
- A milkshake
- A sundae made with ice cream, melted otter pop topping, whipped cream, and sprinkles
It’s so much fun, because you never know what there’s going to be.
Once everyone is done, it’s time to bring out the food. Often, we have the judge leave the room and we carry everything to the table. That way the judge doesn’t know who made what.
We’ve also done it where each person presents. So this part changes based on how everyone is getting along that day.
The judge is required to taste everything. They have a cup of water to clear their mouth out before the next entry.
Then, if there’s more than one judge, they deliberate. The judge declares a winner. Typically we do the first three places.
Once the winner is declared, the food is fair game for everyone. They all dig in, sampling each other’s creations and enjoying a special snack time.
Then we clean up and move onto the next part of our day.
We Do Family Cooking Contest In Lieu of the Daily Snack
On days when we’re doing a cooking contest, that is our snack. We do not then get the regularly scheduled snack.
What To Have On Hand for a Family Cooking Contest
If you’re ready to try a Family Cooking Contest of your own, it’s best to do it when you have lots of options in your kitchen. But, there’s definitely not a “must have” list. Your kids can use what you have.
Here are some ingredients and supplies I like to have on hand:
- Ice cream
- Otter pop style popsicles
- Lunch meat
- Powdered sugar
But, kids are creative enough to turn most foods into different dishes. Let them explore the cupboards and decide what to cook.
Note: If you are doing this “Chopped” style, you will need to ensure you have enough of the must-use ingredients for each player.
How a Family Cooking Contest Benefits Your Kids
Family Cooking Contests aren’t just fun and games. They’re really beneficial for your kids.
While participating, your child gets to :
- Take inventory of what’s available
- Think creatively
- Give directions
- Receive directions
- Practice kitchen skills
- Help clean up their mess
- Sample new dishes
- Offer feedback to others
- Listen to feedback on their dish
Cooking offers so many teachable moments, so take advantage of them.
Are You Going to Try a Family Cooking Contest?
What do you think? Would your kids enjoy this activity? If yes, give it a go. I’d love to hear what they make!
If you take a picture and share it on Instagram, be sure to tag me @lisatannerwrites I’d be thrilled to see.