Involving your kids in the kitchen while you prepare meals can be a great way to enjoy family time and teach basic principles of cooking and good nutrition. If you’ve been thinking about doing this with your family, here are some age-appropriate activities and suggestions that all kids, from toddlers to teens, can enjoy.
Cooking with Kids: 0 to 2 years
At this age, the best way to involve your little one is to have them with you in the kitchen while you cook. Place them in a high chair or bouncer and give them some safe, adult-sized cooking tools like wooden spoons, non-breakable mixing bowls, or measuring cups and spoons. Talk to your child about what you’re cooking and let them smell, touch or taste different ingredients. Make cooking a fun experience for all of you.
Cooking with Kids: 2 to 3 Years
Children at this age will need plenty of instruction and supervision, but they’ll probably be very willing to help you cook. Have kids start gaining confidence in the kitchen by letting them help with simple tasks, such as:
- Pour ingredients into a bowl.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables.
- Tear lettuce and greens into small pieces.
- Stir cold or room temperature sauce or batter.
- Mash cooked potatoes.
- Sprinkle salt or herbs on a finished dish.
- Help clean up by putting silverware into the dishwasher.
Ready for a laugh? Check out this adorable video where a father let’s his son go “all out” in their home kitchen. It’s definitely worth a watch:
Cooking with Kids: 4 to 5 Years
At this stage, children are improving their fine motor skills and working on these movements in the kitchen with simple cooking tasks can be beneficial in their development.
- Cut with a plastic knife.
- Measure and level dry ingredients
- Spread butter or jam.
- Set the timer.
- Peel a cooled hard-boiled egg.
- Help to set the table.
- Rinse small plates and silverware in the sink.
- Spray the kitchen counter or table with a child-friendly cleaner, and then wipe it clean.
- Fill the soap compartment in the dishwasher and press the “Start” button.
Cooking with Kids: 6 to 9 Years
Many elementary-age children can begin to help out with more complicated tasks and reading recipes out loud together can reinforce language skills they’re learning at school.
- Cook next to you at the stove.
- Use a can opener, garlic press,
- Peel fruits or vegetables with a peeler.
- Use a box grater to grate a block of cheese
- Form patties.
- Grease baking pans.
- Scoop muffin or cupcake batter into cups.
- Thread food onto skewers for kebabs.
- Help put groceries away.
- Set the table
- Load and unload the dishwasher.
Cooking with Kids: Tween and Teen Years
At this age, teaching kids how to cook basic recipes not only builds responsibility and independence but can help increase their self-esteem as they can now cook a meal for themselves or the family on their own.
Start off slowly by preparing meals together, with your child taking responsibility for some of the ingredients, with the goal of gradually taking on the whole package. This approach is less stressful (for both child and parent!) and allows your child to ask questions and practice.
In the beginning, choose recipes with few ingredients and simple preparations, such as pasta with sauce or quesadillas. Once your child becomes more comfortable and confident reading recipes and using different cooking methods, you can gradually progress to more challenging recipes.
While many teens would be happy making and eating pepperoni pizza or mac and cheese every night for dinner, it’s important to reinforce the importance of eating a balanced meal. Encourage your young chef to serve meals that have half of the plate filled with fruits and vegetables, the other half of the plate the main course. A good way to achieve this is to keep the fruit and vegetable sides simple to prepare. For example, following instructions on the package for cooking frozen vegetables (such as Tommy’s Seasoned Mixed Vegetable Medley) and then making a simple fruit salad is an easy way to get into healthy food preparation habits.
Ready to get cooking?
However your child helps out in the kitchen, it’s important to remember that they are developing valuable skills that will allow them to gain independence and knowledge about the importance of eating a healthy, balanced diet.
Once you try some of these suggestions, let us know what you and your kids think by posting in the comments or tagging us on social media. Happy cooking!