Spending time with your children preparing food offers the chance to bond, all the while being creative. Both the Mayo Clinic and the American Heart Association suggest that getting kids involved with grocery shopping and food prep can reduce picky eating. If you are looking for ways to get your children involved in the kitchen, here is a break down of great ideas for every age.
Cooking with Kiddos Under Three
The first step to cooking with little ones is setting up a safe cooking environment. Once you’ve put away to sharp, hot, heavy, or otherwise hazardous items, you’re ready. Cooking with children this age is an opportunity to teach your child about food and familiarise them with the kitchen environment.
Here are some activities very young children will enjoy:
- Washing vegetables – this is a great way of teaching them the names of vegetables and sparking an interest which will hopefully encourage them to try different foods
- Stirring ingredients – they should be at room temperature
- Spooning ingredients into scales or measuring cups – you’ll need to help!
Another way to keep young children occupied is to give them plastic containers and utensils to wash in the sink – this can provide lengthy entertainment while you cook.
Cooking with Preschoolers
Children in this age range are often able to follow multi-step directions and have increased motor skills, but trust your knowledge of your child as skills can still vary greatly at this age. Pick recipes you know that you and your child can complete safely. 5 to 10 minutes might be all your child wants to spend on an activity. Start small and keep it fun.
Here are some activities preschool-aged children will enjoy:
- Cutting soft ingredients e.g. butter, mushrooms, strawberries using a strong plastic knife
- Breading and flouring – you can set up three stations with flour, beaten egg and breadcrumbs for fish sticks
- Tearing and squashing – tearing herbs and lettuce or squashing fruit
- Kneading – light kneading can be fun but you’ll need to step in to complete the task
- Rolling, shaping and cutting dough
- Adding ingredients into the bowl
Most children in this age range have developed fine motor skills, so they can handle more detailed work, but they will still need food safety reminders. Some children in this age-range will have the skills and control needed to carefully flip hot pancakes, while many others might not be there yet. Trust your judgement.
Here are some of the activities elementary-aged children will enjoy:
- Use a peeler to peel raw potatoes, ginger, mangoes and other washed fruits and vegetables.
- Break eggs into a bowl and remember to wash hands afterwards.
- Load the dishwasher.
- Shuck corn and rinse before cooking.
- Rinse and cut herbs with clean, blunt kitchen scissors.
There is a wide range of skills in this age group, so tailor your tasks to each individual’s maturity level. Many children of this age can work independently in the kitchen, but should still have adult supervision. Before letting these kids do grown-up tasks on their own, assess whether they can follow basic kitchen rules such as adjusting pan handles over counters to avoid bumping into them, unplugging electrical appliances, using knives and safely using the oven or microwave.
Here are some age-appropriate activities that, with continued adult supervision, older children will enjoy:
- Put leftovers into containers and refrigerate them
- Crack and beat eggs
- Slice, grate, or chop fruits, vegetables, and cheeses
- Check the temperature of meat with a food thermometer – it’s like a science experiment!
- Boil pasta
- Follow a recipe, including reading each step in order and measuring ingredients accurately
- Simmer ingredients on the stove
Cooking together can be a fun way to teach your child valuable skills, promote good nutrition and make long-lasting memories in the process.