As a parent, you are likely always looking for new things to do with your kids. You are probably also very busy doing day to day things like cooking three meals a day. Wouldn’t it be great if your kids could help you out in the kitchen, have fun and learn all at the same time? Well, they definitely can! Cooking with kids is a fantastic way to interact with your kids in an educational and exciting way. Let’s take a look.
Learning To Cook Is Important
There are actually many lessons that kids will absorb while in the kitchen and the end result of food is simply a great by-product of learning to cook. To start, kids will be exposed to all different types of ingredients and foods as they cook. This will encourage them to try new things and take away any hesitancy they may have toward eating certain things due to unfamiliarity.
Cooking helps kids become more self-confident as well. When they learn to mix, measure and adjust seasonings with the result of something delicious to eat, they will become more self-assured, knowing that they are capable of creating great things. This confidence in their own skills will carry over into life outside of the kitchen as well.
When kids start gaining experience in the kitchen from a young age, they will be more likely to continue cooking throughout their lifetime. Kids who enjoy spending time in the kitchen, creating delicious food with their family will likely carry this tradition over to their own family as well, creating healthy home cooked meals in the future. Learning to cook is beneficial to a child’s development now and for their future selves!
Cooking Tasks for Kids
There is plenty of jobs for kids in the kitchen all starting as soon as they are old enough to hold a spoon! Of course, you want to always be sure your kids are safe and do not give them tasks that are too difficult or potentially dangerous (keep the sharp knives away!). However, whether your kids are teenagers or toddlers, everyone can help in the kitchen and here is how.
Littlest Helpers (Age 3 to 5)
If you are able to expose your kids to cooking starting at a very young age, the benefits of learning to cook will be even greater. A three-year-old in the kitchen may seem like a crazy idea but they will actually be fantastic helpers with your supervision. They will also have a great time as cooking is full of exciting, interesting and new things- exactly what kids at this curious age love!
Using their fine motor skills is what kids at this age should work on while in the kitchen. This means they will be great at anything that utilizes their hands. Washing fruit, stirring ingredients in a bowl or kneading dough are all great tasks for two to five-year-olds and they will have a great time doing all of these things. If you are making a real meal rather than just playing in the kitchen, be sure to give everything and extra ‘adult’ stir or reserve some dough for the ‘real’ food; this will let your kid focus on just having fun and exploring without your worrying too much about the end product!
Line Cooks (Age 5 to 7)
Once your kid hits this age range, they are able to do a lot in the kitchen. From reading recipes (great practice for reading skills!) to helping you crack eggs, their range of skills is growing. Since kids between the ages of 5 and 7 have fine-tuned their motor skills, they are able to do more difficult things when cooking than when they were younger.
Tasks like measuring and counting, rolling dough or chopping soft fruits and veggies with kid-safe knive are all good culinary jobs for this age range. You can also let your 5 to 7-year-old pick which recipes to make. Ask them to choose a ‘healthy’ recipe and then they will also be learning about what is healthy and what is not. Hands-on skill development and food classification is all possible for your little line cook!
Preteen Cooks (Age 8 to 12)
At this age, kids are likely pretty familiar with many things in the kitchen. They know how to get out the ingredients, measure and chop all of their own food. This age also marks the time when kids want to be more independent and do things on their own. The kitchen is the perfect place for them to practice their independence.
Let your preteen cook decide what they want to make and help them get everything out that they need. You can even set them up with a recipe to follow to ensure they make something delicious. They can make their own lunches, make a few simple batters (muffins and cookies are perfect!) and they are even old enough to wash and put away the dishes. While you do not need to hover in the kitchen, it is good to be close by for supervision or in case they have a cooking question. Do give praise every now and then as this age does love to know when they are doing a good job!
Teenage Chef (Age 13+)
By now, your teenager is likely thinking of creative creations they can make in the kitchen on their own. Teach your teenager how to use all of the kitchen equipment safely and properly so that they can expand their repertoire. Using a blender, the oven and sharper knives can begin at this age as long as you, as the parent, are comfortable and confident in your kids’ skills!
Teenagers can be given the task of creating one meal per week for the family- a useful and fun job! Let them plan the meal and make it from start to finish, including clean up. You should also teach your teenager about how to season, taste and adjust the seasonings in foods to show them how certain ingredients work. They can also practice math skills by doubling recipes, cutting them in half or calculating for a certain number of servings. The possibilities are endless now so give your kids full range of the kitchen!
Fun Kitchen Projects
These fun cooking activities are perfect for anyone who wants to start cooking with their kids. Each project is interactive and kid-friendly with a variety of ways kids can participate. Pick which to try first but then be sure to try them all!
French Bread Pizzas
Quick and easy to make but super fun for young kids as they get to add their own toppings to create their personalized pizzas.
- Cut a loaf of French bread in half and give your kids one half to make into pizza
- Let them spread tomato sauce across the top using a spoon, sprinkle the cheese on and add any toppings they’d like.
- Bake until the cheese is bubbling and begins to brown. Let them cool and enjoy!
Baked Spaghetti Squash
A perfect way to introduce your kids to easy healthy eating. Any age child will love making the “noodles” once the squash is cooked!
- Cut a spaghetti squash in half.
- Have your child help place a piece of foil on a baking tray then place the squash on top. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and then bake at 350 for about 40-50 minutes.
- Once the squash has cooled, give your kid a fork and have them scrape the squash, making “noodles”
A tasty snack that is beautiful and easy to make. Help younger kids hold the skewer and supervise them as they put the fruit on each stick.
- Line up a few types of small cut fruit or berries.
- Have your kids skewer the fruit into pretty designs, practicing counting and pattern making.
Watermelon Fruit Salad
This is refreshing to eat and fun to make. Perfect for putting together for holidays or anytime a nice cool watermelon salad sounds good.
- Slice watermelon into one inch thick slabs and pass them to your kids.
- Have your kids cut shapes out of the watermelon using cookie cutters to make cute, fun to eat forms
- Place the shapes in a large bowl, add some blueberries and a squirt of lemon juice or honey for some extra flavor.
These bites are healthy, easy to make and require no baking. Switch up the mix-ins to make them perfect for you and your family.
- Add 1 cup rolled oats, ½ cup peanut butter. ¼ cup honey, ¼ cup chocolate chips and 2 Tbsp of ground flaxseeds to a large bowl
- Let your kids help stir the mix together (it may take a little muscle!)
- Have them help you use a cookie scoop to scoop each energy ball onto a sheet tray
- Once the batter is all scooped, let your kids roll each ball in their hands to make sure the dough is nice and stuck together.
- Store in the fridge or eat right away!
This is perfect for younger kids who like to play with color and decoration. For older kids, have them help you make the actual cupcakes and frosting.
- Make a batch of cupcakes and frost them with white icing.
- Give your kid a tray of colored sprinkles and toppings and let them have at it! Be warned that there will be sprinkles everywhere but the fun is worth it!
If you are looking to teach your kids about healthy food, this is the perfect recipe. Delicious to eat and pretty easy to make, your young kids will be able to help a lot and your older kids will learn a snack that they can make on their own.
- Cut one zucchini into skinny strips about 3 inches long.
- Place the zucchini on a foil-lined tray and drizzle with olive oil.
- Let your kids sprinkle some breadcrumbs over the top and also some parmesan cheese.
- Bake in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the bread crumbs begin to brown. Enjoy while warm!
These pops are quick to make and also quick to eat! This recipe is full of healthy yogurt and very versatile so you can switch to any fruit you’d like!
- Place 2 cups of plain yogurt, 2 Tbsp honey, and ½ cup fruit puree into a large mixing bowl. Have your kids stir it all up.
- Let your kids help scoop the mix into Popsicle molds and place the sticks in as well.
- Freeze until the pops are firm and ready to eat!
Breakfast Toast Cups
A perfect breakfast cooking activity for the weekend when you have a little more time to spend in the kitchen with your kids.
- Roll a few pieces of bread flat, squishing it until it is nice and thin. Then, have your kids use small round cookie cutters to cut out bread circles.
- Have the kids place the bread circles in a mini muffin tin, using two overlapping circles in each muffin cavity.
- Crack one egg into each muffin cavity on top of the bread. Have the kids sprinkle cheese on top.
- Bake in a 350-degree oven for about 10-15 minutes (depending on how well done you like your eggs)
- Enjoy while warm
Peanut Butter and Banana Quesadilla
This is a step up from a regular old PBJ and something your kids will love to make and to eat
- Give your kid a whole quesadilla and let them spread peanut butter all over one half (good time to learn about halves and wholes!)
- Slices of banana go on next and then the quesadilla is folded in half, cut and eaten! Add some chocolate chips for an even sweeter treat
Kitchen Safety for Kids
When your kids are cooking either with you or alone in the kitchen, they need to be safe at all times. Always use your best judgment when it comes to which tools your kids should be using and, when they are old enough to learn how to use a new appliance, teach them the proper way, encouraging safety. Young kids should never be given knives, allowed to operate an oven or stove top or be tying appliances with blades or motors. Keep all dangerous kitchen equipment out of reach and reiterate that certain tools are for grownups only.
Before starting solo cooking projects, kids should always ask for permission and practice good hygiene by washing their hands. Kids should also ask what is okay to taste and what has ingredients that cannot be eaten raw- ask before you lick is a good kitchen rule! However, the number one kitchen rule when kids are around should be to listen. Cooking is a fantastic way for kids to learn to listen to directions, listen to the kitchen rules, and listen before acting on anything they want to try while cooking. Listen, listen, listen!
By now, you are probably quite excited to get in the kitchen and start cooking with your kids so go ahead! There is clearly plenty to create and to teach in a fun and safe way.