Beginner Cooking with Kids: Oatmeal Energy Balls


Sometimes you love it, sometimes you hate it. It’s messy. It’s dirty. Everyone is sticky (cue background horror music). What’s that on the counter? The floor? Why is the dog covered in mysterious goo? *terrified screaming*

It’s cooking. With kids

Wow Shannon you’re really selling this idea. Why in the world would I want to subject myself to this torture? You ask.

Look. I love it. And you can, too. It’s such a wonderful way to spend quality time together. Really there’s just something oh so cute about those adorable chubby little fingers helping out. You’re making a healthy snack AND spending time together AND teaching some great foundational concepts! A few concepts you’re teaching (but not limited to):

  • Exploring senses
  • Hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills
  • Trying new foods/developing a varied palate
  • Counting and number sense

Today I’m sharing a super simple recipe that you can try at home if you’re interested in cooking with your kids. It’s great for beginners, if you’re short on time, or if you’re just not in the mood to go all out with flour on your walls, cabinets, and ceiling. No actual cooking is required. It’s really just plopping ingredients into a bowl and stirring them together. Oh yeah, and there’s only four ingredients.

I found the recipe on Pinterest (that’s still cool right? I don’t even know anymore) from Together as a Family-linked below!

Oatmeal Energy Balls


  • 3 cups quick oats
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup honey (I used a bit less)


Combine the ingredients until well mixed then form I” balls. Check out the blog for more tips/problem shooting if you need it. Link here:

You got this!

Tips and Tricks for Success

Now down to the nitty gritty-how to make the recipe with kids while simultaneously teaching and not going insane.

Start with the expectation that messes and accidents happen. Our children’s little fingies and hands just don’t function like our adult versions. Our babes are still building coordination and strength-through activities like these. So kudos to you!!

Do some prep work to make cleanup easier. I’m pretty “type a” when it comes to cleanliness annnndddd I’ve cooked with 19 preschoolers back in my teaching days before I hope I have some wisdom to share! Take what you like and leave the rest. Here are some of my tried and true suggestions for mess control and prevention:

  • Put an apron on you and your child or strip ‘em down!
  • Have a wet cloth ready to go for messy hands and spills
  • Keep your child in one spot to contain the mess-we LOVE our learning tower
  • Work close to a sink or trash can if possible to wipe messes directly there
  • Keep anything “dumpable” out of your child’s reach
  • Always use an oversized, sturdy bowl. Your least “tippy” bowl. Think wide or a heavy bottom.
  • Give direct, explicit instructions ahead of time.
  • Line the “spill zone” with wax paper

During the process:

I tried this out with my two year old, Sawyer, whose favorite phrase is, “I’m do!” So we all know that means lots of temptation to grab and wanting to do all.the.things. by himself. Here’s what yo can do and say to make it a success!

Before starting, set expectations. Tell your child what you are going to do and what he was going to do. “I’m going to scoop one cup of oatmeal out of the container then we are going to dump it into the bowl together” (Older kids may be able to scoop out of the container themselves without tipping it but Sawyer wasn’t there yet-you know your child best). Then scoop out the cup of oats and hold it over the bowl. Have your child dump it directly into the bowl. Try guiding hand over hand to get a feel of how he’ll do moving forward-is he feeling cooperative or is he looking for chaos? This will help you decide how much control to give him moving forward. The ideal situation is for him to do the majority of the work but hey now none of us are in the mood to spill an entire container of oats, ya know?

As we dump the oats into the bowl, start counting. “Onnnneeeeeeee! Two more!” Scoop another cup from the container. Take what you noticed earlier about your child’s ability to be a helper or a mess maker and decide whether or not to give them more control here. If yes, hand the cup to him to dump independently. “Twwooooooo! One more!” Repeat.
that he was motivated to be helpful so this time I hand the full cup to him to dump independently.

The slow counting cup by cup teaches 1:1 correspondence, which is an essential basic math concept; however it can be a tricky concept that sometimes goes unnoticed until kindergarten!!! Not an ideal situation. Instead of only having a child rote counting super fast to show off how high they can count, we want them to have a strong sense of what those numbers mean-that one
number represents one object.

For the rest of the ingredients, repeat the same process. I filled the measuring cups with ingredients then I let Sawyer dump them into the bowl while we counted together. For the peanut butter, I had him dump what he could but ended up using a rubber spatula to scrape the rest out on my own.

Once all the ingredients are in the bowl, it’s time to stir! You may need to hold the bowl in place while your child stirs stirs-Sawyer wasn’t ready to steady the bowl with one hand and stir with the other. If you’re working with a child that’s a bit older, they’re probably ready to practice holding the bowl in one hand and stirring with the other to really work hard on coordination!

When Sawyer inevitably become overzealous when stirring, I reminded him that he needs to keep everything in the
bowl. If your child continues making a mess after a reminder, it could be a sign that he’s done. Listening to and following all those directions is a lot of regulation! Totally cool if they’re over it-you can finish stirring it up yourself.

Finally it’s time to roll the balls! Fair warning: this party is stickkkkkyyyy and messsyyyyy! So have that wet cloth handy because we both know your child is going to go immediately to your wall or something more horrifying to clean off their own hands if they’re left to their own devices. Start off by modeling how it’s done by making a sample. Then try giving your child a small amount to try to roll. It was super tricky for Sawyer because of how sticky the mixture was. He spent most of his time attempting to roll his ball then licking the mess off his fingers while I made the rest. No biggie that he couldn’t do it yet and no biggie if your child’s in the same boat! That’s why we’re practicing.

That’s it! Enjoy your snack! And remember: parenting is hard and if you’re reading this and trying activities like these at home you are absolutely excelling. Amazing job!!!

The concentration is toooo cute

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I’m a stay at home mom of two little boys, Jackson and Sawyer. I have a degree in Early Childhood Education and a masters degree in the education field as well. I have experience teaching a variety of ages from birth through grade 12! I’m passionate about child development, gentle parenting, and learning through play. I’ve spent the last few months developing a preschool curriculum for my 4 year old son and would love for you to follow along for inspiration in your own home!

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