25 Easy Ways to Teach Kids How to Cook

25 Easy Ways to Teach Kids How to Cook

Every master chef starts somewhere! Read on for tips to get your kids cooking.


By Wendy Robinson

“Mama, I help! I help you!”

I was standing at the stove, briskly attending to multiple bubbling pots containing the start of dinner, when my 2-year-old tugged on my leg and offered her assistance as a sous chef. I scooped her up, reminded her that the stove and the pans are “hot, hot, don’t touch!” and let her help me stir the vegetables sautéing in the pan.

I firmly believe that letting kids help cook is an important part of raising both healthier eaters and better future spouses. (I expect thank you notes from my future son- and daughter-in-law for equipping my kids with the skills to make my amazing everything cookies!) Interestingly, getting kids involved in cooking is an idea that is supported by both the National Institutes of Health and the American Institute for Cancer Research -- not only for the potential health benefits, but also because learning to cook helps kids develop essential math and science skills.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean we want to arm our toddlers with butcher knives or let them learn to flambé, as safety is a top concern. Thankfully, there are a variety of kitchen tasks even the youngest chefs can do.

Pre-schoolers
1. Stirring and kneading dough
2. Adding in dry ingredients (like dumping in the chips to chocolate chip cookies)
3. Using clean safety scissors to snip fresh herbs
4. Getting out ingredients
5. Helping wash out cans or other items for recycling
6. Putting items like chicken nuggets on baking sheets before they go in the oven
7. Tearing lettuce for salads
8. Cracking eggs

More from P&G everyday: 5 Simple Steps to Starting a Cooking Club

Kindergarten-First Grade
1. Helping read recipes and find ingredients in the pantry/kitchen
2. Preparing simple items for their own breakfasts, like toast or cereal (consider portioning out the right amount of milk into a smaller cup the night before)
3. Cleaning fruit and vegetables
4. Cutting tasks with smaller knives (with supervision). I started my son on cutting sticks of butter when he was 4, and then, as he gained skills, moved him up to breads, soft fruits, and eventually vegetables.
5. Identifying and using appropriate measuring cups and spoons

Elementary School Age
1. Helping plan weekly menus
2. Preparing their own lunches for school
3. Taking the lead on simple dishes like scrambled eggs, homemade pizza, and quick breads and cookies
4. Opening cans, using a stand mixer (supervised at first), and using other kitchen tools
5. Learning to prepare smoothies
6. Preparing meals in a slow cooker
7. Grating cheese and zesting fruit
8. Beginning to understand topics like budgeting, portion sizes, and reading nutrition labels

Middle School and Beyond
1. Taking responsibility for preparing one meal per week for the family
2. Using the oven safely
3. Developing finer skills, such as understanding the difference between chopping and dicing and boiling and simmering
4. Understanding food safety issues like how to handle raw meat and determining when food is fully cooked

I am fortunate to also be a stepmother to two grown sons. Some of my favorite memories with my oldest stepson include working in the kitchen together to prepare meals. We’ve had some of our best conversations as we’ve chopped vegetables and tested new recipes together. I think fondly of those moments as I lift my littlest one to the counter and let her steal a chocolate chip and spill flour when we make cookies together.

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“Yes, baby,” I say, “you can help me cook.”

How do you involve your children in the kitchen?


Wendy Robinson is a writer, working mom, and graduate student. Someday she'd like to sleep in again. She also blogs at www.athleticmonkey.com.

Image ©iStock.com/lostinbids


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