Q. I want my children to have a role in preparing the family meals. What is safe for them to do?
A. The process of cooking involves a variety of skills that we seldom think about as adults, says Olivia Munger, a registered dietitian in the Children’s Health℠ Get Up & Go program. The math you use when calculating measurements, understanding the science behind browning onions and the motor skills needed for dicing garlic are all abilities you began developing as a child. 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. Children can begin helping with basic meal preparation as young as 2 years old. Get them started early washing produce or measuring ingredients, and by the time they reach preteen years, they will be able to make a few simple dishes with minimal direction from you.
Kids in the Kitchen Cooking Tips
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
Remember, Safety First!
Discuss safety 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 good knife-handling skills and navigate around hot surfaces.
Turkey and Veggie Meatballs Recipe
Download the tasty turkey and veggie meatballs recipe below that you and your children can make together.