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.