Larry Crowe, Associated Press
Quesadillas are one simple option for a Mother's Day meal that children can help make.

Are your children planning a surprise breakfast for you on Mother's Day? Of course you would know about it. Mother knows about everything.

If you have determined that your kids are ready to man the kitchen alone, sit back and relax. What could go wrong?

However, if the thought of your children alone in the kitchen plugging things into other things gives you hives, or if your husband passes out at the sight of broken eggs — read on.

(Why is a dad giving this advice? Is it because he is bursting with parental knowledge that he feels obligated to share with womankind? Nope. It’s because he has put out three kitchen fires in the last six months — one of them with his shirt. FYI: You can’t get holes out with Tide.)

Starting with …

Encourage your children to make something they have made before. Don’t expect that they will pick up a recipe book and floor you with their skill.

My own kids aren’t so hot in the kitchen. If I am stuck in the office come dinner time, I usually tell them to make something like meat pie casserole, or chili cheese fries, or egg sandwiches — something we have had good luck with in the past — something they can make on their own without me having to call for a crime-scene investigation.

Save the fancy menu for Father's Day or you may end up with curtains jubilee.

From basic to … a little less basic

So how will they know what to make? Simple. You will have mentioned it several times in passing throughout the week. A mother knows how to control information, so use your superpower for good.

If your children didn‘t pick up on the clue, have them help you with a simple breakfast in the week before the big day and drop a few hints that this could be one of your favorite breakfasts ever! Have supplies for that very breakfast at eye level somewhere, like the pantry or on top of the TV.

A simple do-it-themselves meal is very possible if you like Pop Tarts, toasted bagels, cold cereal or hard boiled eggs and the like. Remember that even heating water can be a job for a child who can man a fire extinguisher.

Slightly more advanced are microwaveable meals, such as family-sized bags of pasta/chicken with mixed vegetables and an Alfredo, garlic or cheddar cheese sauce. Lasagna also comes pre-made and frozen. Grate some mozzarella on it and, voila!

Sandwiches on toasted, buttered bread give a feel of real cooking. Lunch meats, cheese and condiments, with pickles, olives and chips! Yummy.

Even something as simple as frozen rolls make people happy. More advanced would be scones out of the same frozen rolls — just let them rise a bit and warm up the waffle maker. Make sure to coat the iron with a bit of cooking spray.


Maybe your children want to cook an old-fashioned, home-made meal instead? Nothing makes a mother itch like the words “from scratch.”

A great remedy is breakfast for dinner. Eggs, sausage, toast and pancakes or waffles are fairly easy, but may require a dad who is at least paying attention from the table where he may be pretending to read a newspaper.

Baked potatoes are remarkably easy as long as they understand that the phrase “hot potato” is not just a jump-rope chant. Try a potato bar.

Pizza is moderately easy to make as long as you stick to store-bought dough. Add tomato sauce, cheese and other toppings that you have conveniently stocked.

Haystacks start with a base of corn chips. Add (buffet style) cooked seasoned hamburger, refried beans, red or yellow onions, grated cheeses, olives, lettuce, sour cream and green onions. No fork is necessary.

Quesadillas are much the same and super quick. Just substitute some tortillas, add your meat of choice — chicken, sausage, beef are all great — and buffet it from there. Breakfast burritos are another one of those meals your kids will beg to help you with, which means less work for you — in theory, at least.

Chili and corn bread are easy. So is quiche, when you use a store-bought pie crust.

Or have a Roman holiday and feast on breads, cheeses and fruit. They can serve you in togas.

A scoop of ice cream or sorbet from the freezer tops it all off. Or try root beer floats or a milkshake bar, easiest with vanilla ice cream, several different fruits and syrups and/or malt.

Keep it simple, and your kids will feel empowered to try their hand cooking, and not just for Mother's Day.

Davison Cheney writes the "Prodigal Dad" column weekly for His other writings are at Twitter: davisoncheney