10 Ways Young Kids Can Help in the Kitchen: A List of Cooking Activities by Age

Want to involve your kids in cooking? I have put together a list of activities that will get you cooking with kids tailored to their age and ability. So whether they’re two or ten, your child can help make delicious snacks or meals at home!

cooking with kids

All kids develop at different rates, so these age ranges are just a guide. Your kiddo may be ready to do a certain task earlier or later than suggested below. Obviously, follow your own instincts and watch your child carefully while in the kitchen!

0 to 18 Months

For the first year and a half, the best way to involve little ones in the kitchen is just to let them observe you cooking!

Bring them into the kitchen while you cook. Set them up someplace safe — a highchair, play yard, bouncer — and give them a few adult-sized cooking tools to bang around. Let your baby make music with wooden spoons, whisks, spatulas, non-breakable mixing bowls, and measuring cups and spoons would all do the trick. Talk to them about what you’re doing. If you’re cooking food for their meals, let them smell and touch the ingredients. This is all about making cooking a fun, interesting thing they can watch and experience.

  1. Let them sample what you’re making. Pull the high chair up next to where you’re working or give them some puffs or cheerios as a pre-dinner snack. It’s also a great way to feed them their dinner so when its time for you to sit down and eat you really can just eat!
  2. Let babies dig through the Tupperware drawer. Stack them up, nest them, match up with their lids! Many babies will just think its fun to toss them around back and forth. You would be surprised how long this can occupy a little one.
  3. Make a pouring station using items from your pantry. Lay out a towel and large tub and dump some oatmeal or flour in it. A little goes a long way.

18 months to 3 years

Somewhere around 18 months, kids might be ready to start helping out with a few simple tasks in the kitchen, like:

1. Make salad/rip lettuce: Make sure their little hands are clean and then get them to work. They can rip lettuce with their hands, spin the salad spinner (a favorite in our house) or add veggies to the bowl.

2. Mash things that are not hot: I remember when my son was born, I was looking for ways to give my daughter a little more attention; having her help me cook and set the table was one way that she absolutely LOVED. While I was making dinner, I put stood her up on a stool with a bowl and some cooked (but not hot) potatoes and let her have a blast mashing sometimes with a potato masher and sometimes with her hands. Other things that can be mashed: cauliflower, butternut squash, broccoli, bananas, or strawberries or raspberries for a delicious dessert topping.

4. Roll meatballs: Recently, while making dinner, I realized I just needed some help. I got my daughter to prep the salad (she’s 11 now) and my son to roll the meatballs (he’s 9) while I mixed the meat and portioned it out on the tray. It was such a satisfying experience to have the 3 of us in the kitchen working on dinner.

5. Roll dough: There is probably a reason that playdough has been popular for decades. Kids love to roll things like the extra pastry for mini-apple pies or pizza or cookie dough. Your kiddo can use a regular rolling pin, a kid’s one, just their hands, or you can create a rolling pin from a pvc pipe.

6. Mix a batter: Whether it’s pancakes or Jell-O, give them the whisk, paddle, or spatula and let them go to town. It is ok if things are a little messy. Know starting out that not all batter will stay in the bowl!

7. Decorate cakes or cookies: Make cake and cookie decorating fun! Let your kiddo add color, candy, frosting, etc. Just be careful to not over do it on the sugar!

Some other cooking activities that can be done at this age include:

  • Pour dry and liquid ingredients into a bowl.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables.
  • Set the table.
  • Scrub potatoes.
  • Pick herbs off the stem.
  • Tear greens into pieces.
  • Brush oil or butter with a pastry brush.
  • Stir batter in a bowl.
  • Mash vegetables.
  • Hold the dustpan.
  • Put silverware in the dishwasher

Every child is different, so they may be ahead of or behind these suggestions. You know your child best!

Do you have any more to add to this list? If so, please leave a comment!

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