There are many great reasons to cook with your kids at all ages.
It teaches them important life skills. It stimulates and compliments their school education – for example, measuring ingredients supports math learning. It encourages them to try dishes they might otherwise turn a nose up to. And it serves as a great way to bond with your children.
Children can help in the kitchen as soon as they are able to stand on a step stool and reach the counter.
Here is a guide to cooking with kids by age, including safety tips:
Safety Cooking with Kids
Yes, even toddlers can help! Safety is the biggest factor to be mindful of when a toddler is cooking.
- Give toddlers and preschoolers an area of the counter that isn't near the heat of the stove. Teach them to always assume the stovetop is hot and dangerous.
- Teach them to wash their hands before cooking, as well as after handling ingredients.
- When it comes to materials, stick with tools that can't hurt small and inexperienced children such as lightweight mixing bowls and cutting boards. Our mixing bowls are great for cooking with kids because they can be used both to mix and to serve.
- Small and inexperienced sous chefs shouldn't handle any knives, but spoons, spatulas and measuring cups and spoons are perfect. We also have a nylon cooking tool set.
- Be sure the step stool if needed cannot slide or topple from movement.
- Start teaching children to chop with a butter knife and soft ingredients. Once they master safe use of a knife, slowly and with supervision introduce real knife use.
- The transition to working around the heat and stovetop should be done with close supervision for experienced kid cooks who are at least school-aged.
- Don't be afraid to teach them skills that take some practice to master such as cracking eggs. Mistakes will happen as part of the learning process.
Here are the best kitchen tasks for small children and inexperienced cooking assistants:
- If they haven't mastered measuring yet, measure and let them pour.
- Small children love to mix and stir! Since they aren't very coordinated yet, be sure there is a distance between the food being mixed and the top of the bowl to allow for splashing.
- Toddlers can do many steps involved in making things like salads, fruit salads and dips. It can be a huge boost in confidence for them to take credit for certain dishes on the dinner table.
- Let the children help choose recipes to try! Encourage them to think outside the standard dishes they're used to eating.
- Teach children school-aged and up how to read a recipe, prepare all of the ingredients and, even better, how to change the number of servings. Converting the quantities for an entire recipe is a great way to apply math to real life.
- Starting at school age, children can start repeating and learning certain recipes. Once they're comfortable at the stove, teach them how to cook scrambled eggs if eggs are part of your family's diet (one of the base recipes any home cook should know, and one that professional chefs say is important to master). After they hone scrambled, move on to sunny side up and hard boiled. There are subtle nuances to making eggs that will help with all of their cooking. Soups are another realm of cooking that teach a wide variety of cooking skills.
- Teach teens some meals to make for the family. Encourage them to experiment with and alter recipes. Once they leave home, these will be important skills to help them be self sufficient. It also teaches teens to share responsibilities with parents. (Send them off to college with this starter non-toxic all ceramic cookware set!)
Recipes for Cooking with Kids
Here are a few recipes that have many kid-friendly steps and elements to get started cooking with your children.