Age-appropriate ideas for food preparation/cooking

Here are some ideas to get even the youngest children involved in the kitchen. Ages are to give an indication only. Always supervise children.

Under 1 year old

  • sensorial component of being in the kitchen – watching, touching, tasting, smelling and talking with them about what you are doing in the kitchen
  • have them at the height of the counter top so they can observe what is going on (using a baby carrier or similar)
  • washing salad leaves or fruit

1 – 2 years old

  • spreading crackers or toast
  • peeling and slicing fruit, eg, bananas
  • shelling peas
  • egg peeling and slicing
  • adding and mixing ingredients
  • kneading dough
  • pouring water for drinking – you could have a dispenser down low or a small jug on a low table (have a sponge or cloth nearby for spills)
  • helping to set the table – have dishes down low in the cupboard so your child can reach them
  • asking your child to help get different things out of the cupboards as you need them (again you’ll need to move things down low for this to work)

2-3 years old

  • squeezing orange juice
  • peeling and cutting apples with an apple slicer/corer
  • peeling and slicing vegetable (always supervise using a knife, start with a butter knife and softer vegetables like cucumber)
  • using a hand whisk
  • grating cheese
  • making lemon water to drink – squeeze lemon slices and place them in a jug of water
  • spinning salad
  • tearing lettuce for salad
  • peeling onions and garlic

3+ years

  • using kitchen appliances with supervision
  • using scales and measuring ingredients with measuring cups and spoons
  • more advanced knife skills
  • following simple recipes with you

More tips for cooking with young children

  • Once they are standing on their own you could use a step ladder (ours was from the local hardware shop)
  • Always stand between your child and the stove
  • Have towels ready to wipe hands dry
  • Lower your expectations – expect that the vegetables may not be perfect sticks, some may fall on the ground, there will be spills, and that it may take longer
  • Have a small broom and dustpan and child-sized aprons stored with your adult sized equipment/aprons
  • Have sponges for cleaning and spills in easy reach

Why have kids in the kitchen?

First, kids love to be involved in the daily activities of the home. They are pleased to be able to contribute by helping in the kitchen. And I have found that my children are always more interested in trying new foods if they have participated in the preparation.

Second, kids will learn cooking skills as well as help refine their fine motor and executive functioning skills. They will also be able to master a sequence of steps.

Lastly, these activities are building your child’s independence, increasing their sense of self and autonomy.

Additional Resources:

Use what you have or go to a second hand store. Perhaps keep your eye out for kitchen items that will grow with your child and last a long time.

Here are some of my favorites:

  • apple corer and cutter
  • butter or soft cheese knife for spreading and cutting fruit/softer vegetables
  • crinkle cutter
  • Duralex glasses for drinking
  • glass jug
  • apron
  • a step ladder to reach the counter

You can find these at Ikea or stores like For Small Hands.

I hope these ideas will help get you started with involving your children in the kitchen. Most of all, enjoy the process…not just the product. Try some of these recipes

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