Involve Kids In The Kitchen From A Young Age

One reality of our times is 2 working parents leading extremely busy lives. Consequently, they have less time to spend with their children. All parents are looking for creative ways to spend quality time with their children on a regular basis. One easy place I found to spend quality time together is in the kitchen. Encourage your kids to join you in the kitchen and try to make this a positive experience for them.

Kids love cooking. And they love learning about food. I know some of us parents sometimes discourage young kids from helping in the kitchen. And I am the first to admit I am guilty too.  The kitchen gets very messy whenever very young kids are trying to help and the cleanup creates extra work for the adults. We are leading busy lives these days, and finding that extra time and energy to clean up big messes in the kitchen is very difficult. 

I would encourage moms with little ones to allow them to make a mess in the kitchen and let them develop skills earlier when they are interested rather than later when they might have already lost interest. Planning in advance and inviting and encouraging kids to help out in the kitchen will pay huge dividends later.  You may have to do the extra cleaning, as kids in the kitchen means it will get messy.  Be ready for it. In the end it is worth it as you are spending quality time together and teaching life skills they will carry with them forever.  You can do this once or twice a week, and even teach the kids how to clean up as they grow older.

Benefits Of Involving Kids In Meal Preparation

Why teaching kids to cook is so important:

It can help them learn valuable life skills, while also giving them a chance to be creative and express themselves.

It will boost their confidence and they will have a sense of accomplishment after every task learned and skill level achieved. Do praise their efforts and encourage them so that they will regularly love to come help you in the kitchen.

Will help develop healthy self esteem.

They will be open to sample a dish that they helped prepare. When young children have helped in preparing something, they will be open to giving it a try, and more often than not they will like a new taste if they played a part in the cooking. 

Kids learn by exploring with their senses and the kitchen is the ideal place where they can smell bread baking in the oven, or smell their favorite pizza sauce cooking. They can hear the sounds of blenders, and dough mixers and choppers. Kitchen is the place where they will see raw ingredients transform into cooked food.

Very young kids can learn basic skills in the kitchen like counting and measuring. Older children can learn to read recipes with you and learn new vocabulary words. They can learn how to follow a recipe, and how to double or halve a recipe depending on the number of people they are cooking for.

Kids learn that healthy food choices affect how they feel physically and emotionally.

They learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits from a young age.

Spending quality time with family members in the kitchen will create memories they will cherish for the rest of their lives.

So Let’s Get Started

In the kitchen, kids can be given a lot of responsibility as they grow older and learn new skills. They learn to cook, clean, and take care of the family. As a parent, I know that being a good cook is important. It’s a skill that will help them through life.

This post is for all the parents out there who want to teach their kids to cook but don’t know where to start. I have listed out a few simple items that will get your kid interested in cooking and eating healthy food.

How can a 3 year old help with dinner?

What should an 11 year old be doing in the kitchen?

Some parents may have these questions especially as safety in the kitchen is of paramount importance.

Let’s talk about it. All kids are different with different interests and skill sets. This in no way is a list of things every child should do. I am just sharing what kids can do at different ages and stages. Some kids may be ready for certain tasks sooner than others. 

In our home we started very early with kids in the kitchen. I let them help from the time my kids came in the kitchen and showed interest in what I was doing.

As far as their skills go, we started with very basic things they could do. They would help put away things, they would help take out things. If I was in pantry and needed to grab several cans of something, I would tell my kid to take it from my hand and put the can on the counter. 

As they showed more interest, they were washing apples and grapes or other foods and keeping them in a dish for snack time. They loved putting toppings on pizza if I was baking pizza. They also learned to assemble simple salads.  

We made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches together for lunch. So making salads and sandwiches was something they learnt to do at an early age, of course with mom’s help. 

They graduated to making smoothies. We use frozen fruits with a fresh banana and some yogurt which was easy for them.  At first I helped with the pouring etc. but they managed it themselves after a few times.

My plan is to teach them how to chop vegetables and cut up fruits. There are plastic knives available for this and I will have to remember to be around every time I hand them a knife. Then I plan to teach them to boil an egg, boil pasta, and make rice, basically all the easy stuff. Mind you, all this will be done with mom in the kitchen and not alone by a young child.

Little kids love to play with dough and my kids love to roll out tortillas. I have a small rolling pin that I give them with some dough and they have the time of their life making odd shaped tortillas. This is messy business but I have learnt to not say anything and let them be, always keeping in mind the benefits of this time spent together.

We made cookies for dad’s birthday together and they helped where they could. They forget and started playing with the dough as it is just like play-dough, but we had a lot of fun baking those cookies together.

Another good skill is measuring things and I always let my little one measure out the flour for pancakes or tortillas.  And then pour one cup or 2 cups water in a jar ready for the mixture.

Time in the kitchen is the right place to show your children how the abstract math they may be learning in school is useful in the kitchen. They are using addition skills and measuring ingredients and perhaps converting from one unit to another. Cooking teaches them about proportion and fractions. When it is the right time for your child, you can bring up all these math concepts and show them the practical application of math in real life.

Teaching kids to cook can also be a lot of fun, especially if you have some basic recipes that you can use as a jumping off point. Some easy things to teach kids to make according to their age and interest would be:

  • Salads
  • Cold sandwiches
  • Grilled sandwiches
  • Boiled eggs, Fried eggs, Omelette
  • Pasta
  • Buy ready pizza crust and teach them how to assemble with the sauce and toppings and bake
  • Home made pizza crust and pizza from start to finish
  • Baked potatoes
  • Chilli to go with baked potatoes or other foods
  • Cornbread
  • Cookies
  • Cup cakes

You can add to this list whatever your child loves to eat. I just came up with this list of what I will be teaching my kids in the future as they grow older.

Show them different ways of making the same thing. Make canned beans on the stove top. Or make beans from scratch in an instant pot after soaking overnight.  Show them ways of cooking you are comfortable with and those you think are healthy ways of cooking. Tell them the difference and why cooking from scratch is cheaper and healthier, but sometimes if you don’t have the time it is okay to open a can of beans and cook it instantly.

Teach about herbs and spices that come up in a recipe. Teach kids how to use a kitchen timer so for things that take longer to cook, they can set the timer and come back to it when the timer goes off.

Time spent in the kitchen is the right time to talk about healthy balanced meals. You can talk about food combinations, and nutrition for a healthy balanced meal.

If you are interested in games related to food and cooking, these are 2 very good ones.

  1. Educational Insights Pancake Pile-Up!

For 3 – 6 year old

Kids learn to follow a sequence. It helps develop motor skills, balance, and coordination. Perfect as a group game with no reading required.  This can be played like a relay race, or can be played individually.

This game is perfect for outdoor play and at home learning. Its a great activity for kids to stay engaged, entertained, and learning with a group of friends or alone.

2. Learning Resources Smart Scoops

For ages 3 +

Counting game with stackable scoops of colorful ice cream help kids learn fundamental math concepts including counting, sorting, and sequencing. Also teaches colors with brightly colored bowls and scoops. 

If you would like to get an apron and a hat for the budding chef in your family, here is a good one.

Sunland Kids Apron and Hat Set

This is another good gift for your child – a kids baking set.

Tovla Jr. Kids Cooking and Baking Set

Involving kids in the kitchen from a very young age will foster an interest in food and cooking that will last for life. With a little bit of planning you can have fun cooking with your kids on a regular basis from a very early age. You will be laying a great foundation when you teach your kids kitchen skills. When the time comes you will be sending them off into the world with a fantastic resource and a skill that is definitely necessary as they go out on their own.