My children, like most kids, have always liked to make things. Especially things that taste good. Over the years I have become quite the food critic, sampling everything from green cookies to undercooked cupcakes.
Days like today, when rain and snow is spitting outside the window and moods can be low, prompt my youngest and I to get out the mixing bowls and start baking.
I am a committed (certainly in my husband's mind anyway) vintage cookbook collector. One of my prized picks from a thrift store years ago is a 1950's Betty Crocker cookbook just for children. While the local bookstores have special sections dedicated to kids and cooking, I haven't yet found anything that beats Retro-Betty.
The book says, and rightly so, that kids not only enjoy cooking, they enjoy the process of doing it themselves. Even a very young child can experiment and create by measuring, stirring, cracking, or sifting. Reading is not always required (since mom or dad will be there to ensure safety).
I am a fan of the "let him try it his way" club, and my examples above are a result of this philosophy, but I believe cooking is just one big chemistry experiment that needs a hypothesis and control group to ultimately come up with a winning recipe. Or, until the cook can read the directions without skipping to the end.
At the very least, cooking/decorating is a stellar activity when the afternoon is dragging, or when a child's birthday is the next day and snack must be prepared. My youngest was very proud of his Valentine cupcakes last week, and told everybody about it. I keep a stockpile of cake mix, prepared frosting, and already-baked cookies ready to go for such times.
One of my favorite memories is of making homemade bread with my mother on days I was sick enough to stay home from school, but not so sick I couldn't help her measure flour, knead dough, and watch it rise.
Betty Crocker or no, your kids can have a ton of fun with you in the kitchen, with big rewards.