Explor­ing food through smell, taste, sight, and touch is an impor­tant part of children’s devel­op­ment. Expos­ing chil­dren to new fla­vors and tex­tures is ben­e­fi­cial and engag­ing in a fun cook­ing activ­i­ty can help lit­tle ones feel more con­fi­dent when try­ing some­thing new. 

Inter­est­ed in learn­ing how to cre­ate a fun learn­ing expe­ri­ence with overnight oats? Keep reading!

What are Overnight Oats?

If you’ve nev­er tried overnight oats, you’re in for a real treat! Overnight oats are deli­cious for break­fast or as a snack. They are made by allow­ing raw, rolled oats to soak in liq­uid overnight, trans­form­ing them into soft and deli­cious oat­meal with no cooking.

Overnight oats are nutri­tious, sim­ple to make, and eas­i­ly cus­tomized with ingre­di­ents like fruit, nuts, seeds and more!

Building Your Own Overnight Oats

Overnight oats make for a fun and enrich­ing activ­i­ty with chil­dren. Chil­dren can choose which ingre­di­ents to use, mea­sure, pour, sprin­kle, and mix. Overnight oats are as fun to make as they are to eat.

Chil­dren can mix their oats at the end of the day and be excit­ed the fol­low­ing morn­ing to taste the result. 

Doing this activ­i­ty more than once can allow chil­dren to enjoy the excite­ment of cre­at­ing some­thing new and dif­fer­ent with each batch, or the com­fort of cre­at­ing the same favorite mix­ture again and again.

Ingredients for Overnight Oats

Our recipe below makes about 1 ½ cups of oat­meal per child, enough for 1–2 serv­ings depend­ing on the child’s age and hunger. 

To make overnight oats, you will need:

  • Old-fash­ioned rolled oats (approx. ½ cup per child). Chil­dren often enjoy feel­ing the tex­ture of the coarse, dry oats with their hands. Choose old-fash­ioned rolled oats (these are flat, flakey oats that cook quick­ly). Using rolled oats is best. Steel cut, “quick cook,” or instant oat­meal may not soft­en or may have a chalky taste.
  • Milk or milk sub­sti­tute of your choice (approx. ½ cup per child). For the milk, use any dairy or sub­sti­tute, such as almond, oat, or soy milk.
  • Plain Greek yogurt or dairy-free yogurt (approx. ¼ cup per child)
  • Option­al: nut or seed but­ter (almond, cashew, peanut, sun­flower, etc.), or spices (pump­kin pie, cin­na­mon, etc.)
  • The mix-ins: Mashed/finely diced/pureed fruit such as straw­ber­ries, man­gos, peach­es, apri­cots, bananas, blue­ber­ries, and cooked and soft­ened apples. Try mashed sweet pota­toes or canned pump­kin. (All mix-ins togeth­er should equal about a quar­ter cup per child.) Fine­ly diced, mashed, or pureed fruit pro­vide a love­ly col­or and sweet­ness to overnight oats.
  • Paper plates or shal­low dish­es for each ingre­di­ent and serv­ing utensils
  • A small jar, bowl, or ramekin for each child to mix, soak, and serve their oats in
  • A spoon for each child for mixing

Click to view the esti­mat­ed nutri­tion­al val­ues for this recipe.

Setting up the Cooking Activity for Children

A fun way to start the overnight oats activ­i­ty is by set­ting up indi­vid­ual “prep sta­tions” where chil­dren can view, taste, and feel the ingre­di­ents. To set up each child’s prep sta­tion, clear off a table and on each child’s plate, place a small amount of each mix-in ingredient. 

Cooking with Children

Invite chil­dren to their prep sta­tions where they can view, touch, and taste the dif­fer­ent mix-ins. 

Give each child a small jar, bowl or ramekin with ½ cup of oats. Give them ½ cup of milk to pour into their con­tain­er, and ¼ cup of yogurt to mix in next. (Note: The ratio of oats to milk should be 1:1. Use about half as much yogurt as milk. Yogurt is option­al but will add a creamy con­sis­ten­cy if you decide to use it. If leav­ing the yogurt out, replace it with an addi­tion­al ¼ cup of milk.)

Pro­vide larg­er con­tain­ers of the mix-ins for chil­dren to select the favorites they chose ear­li­er. When a child selects an ingre­di­ent, they can scoop it into the con­tain­er in which they have mixed their oats, milk, and yogurt (mix-ins should account for about ¼ of the mix­ture). Scoop­ing, pour­ing, and stir­ring are excel­lent prac­tice for large-motor skills. 

Once the mix-ins have been added to their con­tain­er, chil­dren can mix every­thing until well-combined.

After chil­dren have fin­ished mix­ing, you can help them add spices and smooth (not chunky) nut or seed but­ter for those who are not aller­gic.* Con­sid­er options like peanut, almond, cashew, or sun­flower but­ter. It’s impor­tant to mix nut or seed but­ter direct­ly into the oat­meal, mak­ing sure no large clumps remain. Large clumps of nut but­ter can pose a chok­ing haz­ard for young chil­dren, as can items like seeds or uncooked diced apples. Some spices, like cin­na­mon or “pump­kin pie mix,” make for a fla­vor­ful addi­tion. These should also be mixed direct­ly into the oat­meal and not pre­sent­ed to chil­dren in pow­der form.

Once you have ensured that each child’s oat mix­ture is thor­ough­ly mixed togeth­er, label the con­tain­ers with the chil­dren’s names, seal them, and place them in the refrigerator.

How Long do Overnight Oats Take?

The last step is wait­ing! The oats should soak in the refrig­er­a­tor for at least two hours or overnight for a soft­er tex­ture. It is best to make the oats at the end of the day so chil­dren can enjoy their mas­ter­pieces the next morn­ing for break­fast or snack time.

Wait­ing can be hard. Describe the spe­cial trans­for­ma­tion that is hap­pen­ing to their oats through the night. “We’re mak­ing Mag­i­cal Overnight Oats, we’ll put them in the fridge at the end of the day, and when you come back tomor­row, they’ll have turned into a yum­my snack!” 

The fol­low­ing day, serve the chil­dren their spe­cial cre­ations. Lit­tle ones will love how items like smashed berries change the col­or of the oat­meal to fun pinks and pur­ples overnight, and cre­at­ing their own break­fast will give them a sense of accomplishment.

Have fun try­ing out this fun and deli­cious activity!

Interested in Learning More?

For more healthy recipes and infor­ma­tion on chil­dren’s dietary and exer­cise needs, check out our newest course Nutri­tion in Ear­ly Child­hood: Shap­ing a Healthy Future, and Fun and Fit­ness: Address­ing Child­hood Obe­si­ty. For more fun snacks to try with chil­dren, check out our blog Healthy Fall Snacks for Kids.

Estimated Nutritional Value

*Peanut and tree nut aller­gies are some of the most com­mon food aller­gies. Seed but­ter, such as sun­flower but­ter, is a great alter­na­tive to nut but­ter. When plan­ning food activ­i­ties for chil­dren, only select food that chil­dren are not aller­gic to.

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