June 1, 2014 at 1:00 am

Looking for summer activities with the kids? Cook up some fun

Chet the Cat and Friends (Educational Insights) is a new line of cooking sets that will get little kids (ages 3 and up) interested in becoming Mom and Dad's little chef helpers. (MCT)

Summer Break is almost here, and for a lot of us, that means scrambling to find ways to pass those long, hot days at home without a schedule. One of our favorite parent-child activities is cooking. So check out these fun kitchen items for kids: Some are pretend, some are functional, all are fun.

Chet the Cat and Friends (Educational Insights)

This is a new line of cooking sets that will get little kids (ages 3 and up) interested in becoming mom and dad’s little chef helpers. The plates, cups, and flatware are all dishwasher and food safe, so your budding culinary artists in training can actually eat what they create. There’s also a set of kitchen gadgets, such as a toaster, blender, and mixer, which “work” (the blender and mixer work with liquids, but the toaster uses play toast — no one wants a burnt kiddo). Complete the look with an adorable chef outfit (naturally, all decked out with Chet the Cat and Friends). Items range from $22 to $30 at www.educationalinsights.com

Learning Resources

Another company we adore for fun, educational toys that kids is Learning Resources. These toys last forever, don’t break the bank, and teach kids the skills we want them to learn in ways they enjoy and want to keep playing with. Learning Resources has so many great food play sets that it was hard to choose just one — so we didn’t. Some of our favorites are from the New Sprouts line, which promotes healthy eating by introducing kids to realistic-looking (plastic) healthy foods. Depending on which set you get, you and your child can “shop” at the farmers market, bring back your purchases, and start cooking.

The Healthy Breakfast Set comes with an English muffin, pancakes, strawberries, a banana, orange juice, and yogurt (when was the last time you saw pretend yogurt?). The Healthy Food Snack Set comes with alternatives to cookies, including fruit, milk, carrots, celery, cheese, pretzels, and more yogurt. The Grill and Salad Set is perfect for summer. It comes with a hibachi-style grill, tongs, bowls, lettuce, hamburgers and buns, peppers, onions — just about everything one could possibly need to grill up a storm next to mom or dad this BBQ season. This 60-piece set is only available online at www.learningresources.com, $40. The rest of the New Sprouts sets start at $15 and can be purchased at your favorite retailer.

Hello Kitty Hand Mixer

To take cooking and baking one step further, try the Hello Kitty Hand Mixer. It has six speeds and really works, so it’s perfect for baking cookies together, kneading dough, whipping cream, learning to make meringue, or just passing on your grandmother’s recipes. The sooner you start, the easier it’ll be for the kids to learn — and the more memories you’ll all create. The mixer comes with two chrome beaters, two dough hooks, protected air vents, and has dishwasher safe parts. The beaters and dough hooks are interchangeable and ejectable. Available for around $20 at stores like Target and Amazon.

Veggie Blend-Ins (Green Giant)

The idea behind Veggie Blend-Ins is pretty simple — and a little bit sneaky: Just open up one of the pouches (which contain 100 percent pureed vegetables, including spinach, butternut squash and carrots), blend it into something you’re already making, and you’ve got yourself a healthier meal. If you do a good job of matching the colors (butternut squash, for example, goes completely unnoticed into mac and cheese), the kids will never know. Veggie Blend-Ins cost around $14 for nine pouches and are widely available. veggieblendins.com

The Healthy Breakfast Set comes with an English muffin, pancakes, ... (MCT)