Cooking is such a fun activity for kids to do with their parents. It’s also an opportunity for them to learn valuable life skills. For example, it teaches them to follow instructions, read recipes and organize their time (all important life skills). In this article, we’ve outlined some of the benefits that kids can get from cooking with mom or dad, and we hope this inspires you to share some cooking time with your kids today.
Why is it important to teach cooking skills to our children?
When you teach your kids to cook, you will be helping them learn about nutrition, budgeting, and time management skills. In addition, when your child learns how to cook, they will have the opportunity to gain experience about the world around them through food.
Kids need to understand how food gets onto their plates. Teaching your children how fruits and vegetables are grown and how different animals are raised and processed will give them a better understanding of where their food comes from – and give them a larger appreciation for what they have.
Benefits of cooking for kids
Cooking together is a great way to spend time with your kids. Children need regular opportunities for meaningful connection with their parents and other caregivers, and cooking can be an excellent opportunity for this type of bonding. Cooking teaches kids about more than nutrition, budgeting and money management skills though. It also gives kids an opportunity to learn more math and science concepts (like measurement conversion), social responsibility (e.g., making sure everyone gets enough to eat), and communication skills (when you’re talking about what kinds of ingredients you want in a dish or how many servings there are going to be).
Getting your kids to love cooking
Getting your kids to love cooking is as simple as ensuring they have the right tools, ingredients and guidance.
If you have a child who loves to help in the kitchen but doesn’t have much experience cooking, try getting them involved with measuring ingredients using cups, spoons or pitchers (this is also a good way to teach measurement conversion skills).
Experimenting with different ingredients is also a great way to get kids involved in cooking. You can start by showing them how to cook something simple like macaroni and cheese, then let them come up with their own recipe for something else (like pizza).
Lastly, try making a meal together as a family. Cooking is also an opportunity to spend time with your kids, which can be especially important if you work outside the home.
By getting your kids involved in the kitchen, you can teach them valuable life skills that will help them throughout their lives.
The basics of food safety
Food safety is important for everyone, not just kids—understanding food safety and how to keep your family safe from foodborne illness is an important part of the experience.
As a parent, here are some tips for making sure your child learns about basic food safety:
Basic Food Safety Rules for Children
- Frequently wash hands with warm water and soap while preparing and cooking food.
- Don’t eat food that is past its expiration date.
- Don’t eat food with a broken seal or package.
- Don’t use dirty spoons, forks, or cups other people have use.
- Teach your child to throw away food if it has been touched by their hands or someone else’s hands that are dirty or sick.
- Don’t eat food dropped on the floor or ground outside.
- Don’t eat anything that looks or smells bad, such as spoiled milk or meat with a bad smell, moldy bread, and old cheese.
- Don’t eat food with a strange color or texture, like black olives that are green inside or canned fruit juice that looks cloudy.
- In case of a food allergy, be sure to check all labels for warnings like "contains nuts" or "may contain peanuts"
How kids can help cook
There’s a lot of science behind how kids learn and develop. And one thing that has been shown repeatedly is that kids who are allowed to help out in the kitchen are more likely to eat healthy foods.
Kids who spend more time learning how to cook at home are more likely to choose healthy foods when they’re out at restaurants or eating on their own. They’re also more likely to be able to identify unhealthy foods when they see them—which means they’ll be less tempted by junk food advertising.
If you’re interested in cooking with your kid, there are plenty of ways for them to get involved, and we’ve broken it down by age groups.
Cooking tasks for 2 to 3-year-olds
Children at this age are still learning about cause and effect, so they may need help with some tasks. However, you can help them learn by giving them easy tasks like measuring ingredients or stirring a pot of water on the stove.
For children who are more interested in cooking and want to do more than stir water, here are some suggestions:
- Washing their hands to prepare for helping
- Measuring ingredients with cups or spoons
- Stirring ingredients together
- Putting ingredients into a bowl (make sure it’s big enough for them.)
- Using containers with spouts (like pitchers) to pour liquid ingredients
Cooking tasks for 4 to 5-year-olds
Children at this age are better able to understand cause and effect. They can help with tasks like measuring ingredients or stirring a pot of water on the stove. However, they might only be able to help with a few tasks, especially ones requiring more fine motor skills than they have yet to develop.
Here are some tasks for when your 4 or 5 year old is ready to start helping in the kitchen:
- Washing vegetables
- Stirring ingredients in a bowl to make cakes, pancakes, etc.
- Greasing pans for baking cakes and biscuits
- Mixing ingredients for cookies, candies, and other sweets
- Using kitchen tools such as spatulas
Cooking tasks for 6 to 7-year-olds
After your child turns 6 or 7, they’re probably ready to start helping more in the kitchen. Your child will still need your supervision and instruction at first, but with time and practice, they should be able to do more tasks independently.
Here are some tasks for when your child is ready to help with cooking:
- Choosing the right pan or utensil for the job
- Reading recipes and following instructions correctly
- Mixing ingredients properly
- Washing dishes
- Putting together a salad
Cooking tasks for 8 to 9-year-olds
By the time your child is 8 or 9, they should be able to do most of the cooking tasks listed above. They may still need your supervision and instruction for some tasks, but you can start letting them work independently if you want as long as they follow your instructions carefully.
Here are some cooking tasks for 8 to 9-year-olds that they can do on their own:
- Peeling fruit and vegetables with a potato peeler or paring knife
- Slicing up fruit and vegetables with a paring knife or vegetable peeler
- Washing, drying and cutting up fresh herbs like parsley and cilantro with a chef’s knife or kitchen shears
- Mincing garlic cloves with a chef’s knife or garlic press (if you have one)
- Shredding cheese using a cheese grater attachment on your food processor
Cooking tasks for 10 to 12-year-olds
Children 10 to 12 years old should be able to help with most kitchen tasks and chores without danger, and they may even be capable of preparing certain dishes themselves.
Here are some cooking tasks that 10 to 12-year-olds can do on their own:
- Making a simple dish from scratch, like scrambled eggs or pancakes
- Following a full recipe
- Scrubbing potatoes or carrots
- Stirring a saucepan of soup or stew
- Using a knife to cut up meat and produce (under your supervision)
- Using a knife to cut up soft foods like bananas and cheese
- Loading and unloading the dishwasher
Fun recipes you and your kids can enjoy
One way to ensure you and your kids enjoy cooking is to keep it simple. Try these recipes, which can be made with ingredients on hand and don’t require much cooking skill or equipment.
We love salsa around here because it’s easy to make fun variations like this one with whatever fruit is handy at any given moment, so when ripe bananas are lying around waiting patiently. This sweet treat will impress friends without being overly complicated, either. Cut some ripe bananas, pears, and apples into small cubes. Add a few dried cranberries for color and sweetness, then mix with some orange juice (or pineapple juice) and a bit of cinnamon. Serve with tortilla chips for dipping.
Pancakes with fruit
Fruit pancakes are a fun way to get your kids involved in cooking. Mix some pancake batter and add some berries or other fruits (like bananas) to make them. You can also try mixing up the batter with ingredients like chocolate chips or cinnamon. Then cook these pancakes on the stovetop or in a frying pan like any other type of pancake; serve warm with syrup if desired.
Scrambled eggs with cheese and ham
This recipe is great because it’s easy to make and can be made with ingredients you probably already have in your pantry. Just combine eggs and milk in a bowl, then heat this mixture over medium-low heat until it bubbles. Then stir in some shredded cheddar cheese and diced ham. Serve these scrambled eggs with toast for dipping or eating on their own.
Baked oatmeal cups
This is a great recipe if you want an easy breakfast that will keep you full until lunchtime. Just combine oats, milk, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a bowl; then, pour this mixture into muffin pans lined with paper liners. Bake these oatmeal cups at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes or until they’re golden brown. Once they’re done, remove them from the oven and allow them to cool for about 10 minutes. Then top each one with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some berries for an extra punch of flavor. You can also add nuts if you want to make these oatmeal cups more filling.
Kitchen tools for kids
It’s tempting to stock your kitchen with all the latest gadgets and gizmos, but it’s better if you keep it simple. Far too many kids are overwhelmed by the idea of preparing a meal—and then they get discouraged when they can’t manage an electric blender or food processor. Instead of investing in expensive tools that may never get used again, buy a few basic ones and ensure they won’t injure anyone.
Our Little Chef Kids Cooking and Baking Set has all the essentials to allow your kids to become a modern day Giada or Gordon Ramsay. This 14 piece kids cooking set is perfect for the little chef – or aspiring chef – in your house who loves to help out in the kitchen. Designed exclusively for children, these kid-sized and kid-safe cooking utensils have rounded tips and edges for little hands still learning to slice and dice. That means your kiddo has fun learning real skills using real kitchen tools made just for them!
How can cooking help with a child’s development?
Cooking can help with a child’s development in many ways:
- It teaches children how to follow instructions. Children who cook with you will learn to use measurements, an important skill for any child to develop.
- Cooking helps kids learn problem-solving skills. As parents, we want our kids to practice problem-solving so that they feel confident when it comes time to make decisions on their own.
- Cooking teaches children how to share their creations with others. If your child makes something delicious, there’s nothing more rewarding than seeing your kid share it with others – especially when those people have had a bad day at work or school (or whatever else may have happened).
- Cooking also allows kids creativity within certain boundaries: “What flavors do I want?” “How much salt should I add?” “How long does this take before it’s ready?” All these questions help develop critical thinking skills necessary later down the road when making big decisions or solving problems independently without parents (which hopefully won’t happen anytime soon!).
- Cooking is a great way for kids to learn about the world around them. By cooking a meal from another culture, your child may try new foods they wouldn’t have considered eating. This can be particularly important for parents who want their kids to expand their palates and gain more exposure to different cultures.
Why should families cook together?
Cooking together is a great way to bond. After all, who doesn’t love spending time with their family? If you have children, they will benefit from learning that cooking can be enjoyable. It’s not just something that adults do all the time; it’s something everyone should try. If your children are old enough to help with cooking, they can learn valuable skills that will last a lifetime. Cooking together is also a great way to spend quality time with your kids, especially if you’re busy with work and other obligations.
How do I teach my child how to cook without them getting bored and losing interest halfway through?
The best way to do this is to keep it fun and engaging. Introduce one new skill at a time, and then make sure they have a chance to practice that skill before moving on to the next one. It’s also a good idea to alternate between simple tasks like measuring ingredients or stirring together with more complex ones requiring more time and effort.
Start them young
If you want your children to love cooking, you must teach them the basics and help them with their first attempts. But don’t worry—if they get bored or frustrated, they won’t lose interest in food just yet. The best way to do this is by showing them how fun and rewarding it can be when everyone works together around the kitchen table. And remember: if you ever have questions about how best to encourage healthy habits in your kids (or yourself), we’re always here to support you.