When you involve children in the cooking process, they not only become familiar with different foods and how to cook them, they also learn age-appropriate developmental skills. "Incorporating cooking activities at a young age gives children exposure to a variety of foods and supports a healthy relationship with food," says Ashley Kim, a registered dietitian with the Get up & Go program by Children's Health℠. "Begin by teaching your children to measure and mix ingredients as well as tackle basic tasks like washing produce."
Ashley shares ways to get children involved in preparing family meals while keeping kitchen safety top of mind.
Cooking tips for kids in the kitchen
Here are some age-appropriate tasks to get children of all ages involved in the kitchen:
Preschool (2 to 5 years)
- Rinsing fruits and vegetables
- Snapping green beans
- Measuring ingredients
- Mashing soft foods
- Cutting with a blunt knife
Early elementary (6 to 8 years)
- Grating cheese
- Forming cookies and patties
- Peeling onions and garlic
- Breaking eggs
- Kneading dough
- Light chopping with round-end steak knife
Preteens (9 to 12 years)
- Planning and preparing basic lunches, meals and snacks
- Cooking soup
- Using a food processor
- Using a chef's knife
- Putting foods in the oven and removing them
- Baking quick breads and muffins
Teenagers (13 to 16 years)
- Using all kitchen appliances, including outdoor grills
- Developing knife skills to chop, dice and mince
- Driving to the store and buying groceries
- Marinating foods
- Sautéing and pan-frying foods
Kitchen safety tips for children
Remember to discuss safety rules in the kitchen before any of these other skills are taught. Teach your children how to wash their hands before handling foods and explain ways to avoid cross-contamination from raw meats. Help them implement safe knife-handling skills and how to navigate hot surfaces. Always supervise young children in the kitchen, and establish a rule to ask permission before cooking in the kitchen.
Interested in learning more about healthier habits for your family? Join one of our Get Up & Go family cooking classes or a weight management program.