This week, in honor of Cooking with Kids Day, we’re discussing the various ways that you can begin to introduce your children to cooking and helping in the kitchen.  I’ll be honest with you…growing up in my family I was the baker and my sister, Deena, was the cook. So, since she’s the more experienced one, both with cooking and with introducing cooking skills to growing children (her girls are 14 and 12), I thought I’d let her take over today’s blog…

 

 

After a long day, sometimes the last thing you want to do is cook dinner – especially if the kids are in the kitchen! 

But enlisting the help of your kids – even those as young as 1 – can actually be HELPFUL if you stick to age-appropriate tasks.  Plus, teaching kids to be self-sufficient in the kitchen can lead to better eating habits, self-confidence and good co-living habits (especially during those college years!)

Below are some simple tasks that even the youngest child can help with.  

1-2 Years Old

  • Model cooking activities
  • Place child in high chair with their own bowl and whisk to ‘mix their food’
  • Give measuring cups and water and let them play
  • Help remove items from the refrigerator

3-5 Years Old

  • Wipe down table
  • Set and clear tables
  • Make a sandwich
  • Pour cereal
  • Stir a pot 
  • Mix ingredients (with spoon or their hands for an added sensory experience)
  • Crack eggs

6-10 Years Old

  • Load dishwasher
  • Wash and dry dishes
  • Read a recipe
  • Measure ingredients
  • Pack a lunch
  • Boil eggs
  • Slice vegetables
  • Add ingredients to a hot pot

11-14 Years Old

  • Bake independently 
  • Chop vegetables
  • Use a grill or grill pan
  • Follow a recipe from start to finish

It’s not all fun and games and independence.  Make sure that you take the time – when you’re not irritated and rushed – to go over ground rules for the kitchen.  Teach your children about knife safety (they need to be actively cutting, or the knife is on the board), how to turn a gas stove on and off; how and when to use pot holders, and stress the importance of handwashing.

Basically, teaching kids to cook involves a lot of modeling.  Make sure you are modeling the appropriate behaviors that you want your child to participate in.  You also need to remember to let go.  Kids are not going to do things perfectly, and that’s ok. They may set the table in a different way the first couple of times.  The important thing to remember is that they are participating in the activity.  They will eventually learn the proper form and placement over time.  The beginning is just about exposure and gaining enjoyment from the activity.