Kids Can Cook
Studies show that kids who have earlier exposure to nutrition and cooking eat healthier. They have lower incidences of hypertension, metabolic syndrome, and obesity later in life, tend to cook more on their own as they grow older, and are more confident in the kitchen. Exposure is key for picky eaters!
Allowing kids to help out in the kitchen at a young age teaches valuable skills and confidence to eventually allow them to cook on their own. It also gives valuable exposure to different colors, textures, and smells!
It’s important to choose a time to let the kids practice cooking with you when you aren’t feeling rushed. Patience is key - if you are on a time crunch, it may seem more like a chore and won’t be enjoyable. The last thing we want to do is to turn kids off to the idea of cooking. If you are really excited about cooking, they’ll be excited, too!
The earlier the better: even one and two-year-olds can help in the kitchen by pretending to measure dry, easy to clean things like beans and rice. Remember that it can get messy so keep a broom handy!
Here is a great list of things that kids can do broken into age groups:
Ages 2-3: Kids of this age group can pick leaves and herbs from their stems as well as rip lettuce and kale into small pieces for salads and casseroles. They can also break soft fruit and veggies into pieces or pick peas off the pods. Kids love to help wash and rinse fruits and veggies before prepping them! They can also assist with whisking batters and helping to knead dough (they will need assistance). Not only will they be excited to help in the kitchen but they will also develop valuable motor skills!
Ages 4-6: As fine motors skills are perfected, your kids can be given more responsibility in the kitchen. They can do things like use a dull knife or scissors for cutting into soft objects, as well as grating cheese using a glove. They can also do things like crack eggs into a bowl (you may need to check for shells), measuring and adding seasoning, as well as peeling garlic and onions. They may also be able to partially juice lemons but will need assistance squeezing out extra juice.
Ages 7-10: Older kids should know how to wash, measure, cut, grate, chop and now they can learn how to use the oven and safely use the stovetop and other heat sources. They can also be given the responsibility of peeling things like apples and carrots without the use of a glove. Make it like a science experiment and help older kids think through simple kitchen tasks. For example, ask the kids: how do we melt butter? Why do we need to grease pans? What do you think makes cakes rise? This time is perfect for building confidence and self-efficacy!
Ages 11 and older: By following these steps and allowing kids to help in the kitchen as they grow, ages 11 and up should be able to cook simple meals on their own and without much assistance. Make it fun for them by allowing them to cook a meal for the family! It can be a great boost of confidence for young ones to be able to say that they cooked a meal all by themselves.
Teaching cooking skills to children also sets them up to enjoy more whole foods and complex flavor combinations. It’s not just about getting your kids to eat more; instead, we want to help children enjoy eating!