Cooking with your Kids | Articles | Resources

Cooking with your KidsYoung children are often eager to lend a hand in the kitchen. Sometimes letting them in feels like more trouble than it's worth and when you have a limited amount of time to get dinner on the table, this may be the last thing you want. Letting your child "help" will likely just slow you down, but it is important to let them into the kitchen. 

Allowing them help you sends them a message that they are important and they have something valuable to offer. If you reject their offer to help, they may feel you are rejecting them and they may not be interested in helping next time. Cooking with kids takes time and a great deal of patience, but if helping you in the kitchen is a positive experience for them, they will continue to want to be involved. They will take pleasure in the art of cooking and the food they produce will bring them a great deal of satisfaction and enjoyment.  

When your child is involved in the process of food preparation, you might find they are more willing to try foods which they would otherwise reject. Cooking also helps teach kids new vocabulary, math, science, planning, problem solving and decision making skills. Most importantly, cooking helps children to develop healthy eating habits and gives them the knowledge and skills they will need to prepare healthy and delicious food for themselves and for others. Here are some ideas of how to involve your child in the kitchen at various ages.

Age-appropriate kitchen tasks

Every child is different, so it is important to assess the developmental level and skills of each child on an individual basis when assigning kitchen tasks that they can do safely.

Cooking with 2-3 year olds

DSC02929Young children like to explore with their senses. They will likely be most interested in touching and tasting the ingredients while you are cooking. They also like to do things independently so make sure you have some simple jobs ready for them to do on their own. Here are some basic tasks you can give your 2-3 year old:

    •    Wash fruits and vegetables in the sink
    •    Help find ingredients in the fridge or cupboard
    •    Put paper cups into muffin tins
    •    Add pre-measured ingredients
    •    Tear lettuce or other leafy greens
    •    Place scraps in the compost
    •    Wipe table tops


Cooking with 3-4 year olds

DSC02894At this age, children may be more interested in talking than eating and they will ask LOTS of question! In addition to the above, here are some tasks you can give your 3-4 year old:

    •    Pour liquids from a measuring cup
    •    Count foods
    •    Mash soft foods
    •    Mix ingredients together in a bowl
    •    Spread soft spreadables
    •    Remove shells from hard-boiled eggs
    •    Squeeze citrus fruits
    •    Carry foods to the table


Cooking with 4-6 year olds

DSC02892Your child may now be learning to read, so getting them involved in reading recipes or labels of food packages is a great way to engage them. In addition to the above, here are some tasks you can give your 4-6 year old:

    •    Measure dry and liquid ingredients
    •    Assemble foods with ingredients you have prepared
    •    Slice soft foods with a plastic or basic table knife
    •    Form round ball shapes with their hands
    •    Roll dough with a rolling pin
    •    Peel vegetables and remove skins from onions and garlic
    •    Crack eggs and beat with an eggbeater or whisk
    •    Cut herbs with safety scissors
    •    Peel fruits such as oranges and bananas
    •    Set the table


Cooking with 6-8 year olds

2014-02-07 16.35.52 2At this age, kids can follow simple recipes so you may want to get them a few cookbooks of their own. In addition to the above, here are some tasks you can give your 6-8 year old:

    •    Gather ingredients
    •    Use simple equipment such as a grater, toaster, blender or can opener, once you have shown them how to do so safely
    •    Light chopping
    •    Assisted light cooking in a pot/pan, using a chair/stool
    •    Prepare a simple breakfast or snack
    •    Wipe surfaces before and after use
    •    Wash dishes and put away ingredients and utensils
    •    Create and write down their own recipes
    •    Write out a grocery list


Cooking with 8-12 year olds

Kids at this age are more coordinated and while they still need some adult supervision, they can understand how to use appliances safely and are able to work much more independently in the kitchen. In addition to the above, here are some kitchen tasks that are suitable for your 8-12 year old:

    •    Use a knife for slicing, chopping and dicing (depending on level of skill/experience)
    •    Operate small appliances
    •    Use the stove and oven, with adult supervision, to prepare basic recipes
    •    Follow a recipe accurately
    •    Plan and prepare basic meals and snacks
    •    Make their own school lunch


Teens: Teenagers are already making most of their own food decisions and are capable of operating in the kitchen at the same level as an adult, so long as they have been given proper training and guidance.