Table of Contents
- Including your kids in the kitchen has so many benefits.
- Here’s how you can welcome your kids into the kitchen and get them involved in preparing and cooking real food.
- The hand-over-hand technique
- Cooking with little ones under the age of 3
- Cooking with 3-5 year olds
- Cooking with 5-7 year olds
- Cooking with 8-11 year olds
- Cooking with ages 12+
- Tips for mom
- Learning opportunities for your culinary kiddos
- Some great kitchen tools for kids
- Spending time together in the kitchen will foster an interest in healthy living that will last a lifetime!
- Not Only Eat, But Enjoy Healthy Food!
Including your kids in the kitchen has so many benefits.
Here’s how you can welcome your kids into the kitchen and get them involved in preparing and cooking real food.
The hand-over-hand technique
Cooking with little ones under the age of 3
Some things to try: (supervised)
- Help wash dishes in a sink filled with soapy water.
- Help wash produce: Start with produce that doesn’t bruise easily, like a potato rather than a tomato.
- Use a salad spinner.
- Pick herb leaves off their stems.
- Dump the fruits or veggies that you chopped into a separate bowl.
- Put peels and scraps into the garbage.
- Hand over a spoon or rubber spatula so they can practice stirring in an empty mixing bowl. You can get creative by adding play food into the bowl.
- Pour water or dry beans from one pitcher into the other with the goal of not spilling.
- Spoon ingredients into a measuring cup or scale with the hand-over-hand technique (place your hand over theirs so you can direct them with your own).
- Use a cookie cutter (with your help to remove and place the cookies on baking sheet).
- Decorate cookies or sprinkle cinnamon and sugar on top of toast (this can get a bit messy so be sure to put a tray underneath).
- Push the start button on a blender, food processor, microwave or toaster oven.
- Put a cleaning tab in the dishwasher soap compartment and press start.
- Encourage them to “chop” food with a cutting play set. This is a safe way to start building coordination and motor skills in their hand muscles.
Cooking with 3-5 year olds
Some things to try:
- Help count out how many potatoes, zucchini or other produce to use.
- Wash delicate fruits and veggies (tomatoes, pears and peaches).
- Dump ingredients into a bowl (you measure, they dump).
- Gently stir ingredients (or water) in a large bowl to start learning how to stir without splashing.
- Continue to work on pouring skills (there’s bound to be spills—let it go; this ties into that cause and effect recognition!).
- Knead dough with their hands.
- Cut or slice soft foods (like an avocado or a banana) with a child-safe knife.
- Spread nut butter and jelly on bread with a plastic knife.
- Mash potatoes or bananas with a hand masher.
- Make zoodles with a zucchini spiraler.
- Press Homemade Granola Bars into the pan.
- Make a chocolate chip smiley face in their pancake batter on the griddle.
- Use a cookie cutter and place the cookies on a baking sheet.
- Show them the different kitchen utensils and explain what they’re used for.
- Show them how to wash dishes with the hand-over-hand technique (and then let them play in the water a little bit).
- Discuss basic tastes and textures of food.
- Help set the table (using plastic or paper plates).
- Match silverware as you empty the dishwasher.
- Go to a local farm and pick berries off the vine.
Some recipes to try:
Cooking with 5-7 year olds
Some things to try:
- Drain and rinse canned foods like beans and artichokes.
- Cut herbs with herb shears.
- Peel potatoes or use a julienne peeler (start with the hand-over-hand technique).
- Continue to work on pouring skills.
- Continue to cut or slice soft to moderately hard foods (like mushrooms) with a child-safe knife and work on how to properly hold the knife.
- Measure ingredients and learn about the increments. This is a great opportunity to work on enhancing their reading and math skills.
- Grease a pan.
- Form patties or roll meatballs.
- Crack eggs into a bowl. (This one takes time, patience and quite a few eggs. A recipe that uses a handful of eggs, like a quiche or frittata, is a perfect way to practice.)
- Show them the difference between stirring ingredients and folding.
- Scoop batter into muffin cups (with a little help).
- Flip pancakes, scramble eggs and sauté veggies using the hand-over-hand technique.
- Spread nut butter on a banana or apple slices.
- Make a PB & J (step it up a notch by having them slice bananas to use in place of jelly).
- Discuss different tastes and textures of food.
- Find certain ingredients in the cupboard or pantry.
- Have them smell the herbs and spices you use so they learn to differentiate ingredients.
- Stack pots and pans on the drying rack.
- Put away pots and pans from of the drying rack.
- Put groceries away in their proper places.
Some recipes to try:
- Apple Slices Topped with Creamy Nut Butter and Nibs (spreading technique)
A Simple Quiche Recipe (cracking eggs, stirring and folding ingredients)
- BBQ Swiss Burgers with Creamy Avocado Aioli (mix and form patties)
- Greek-Style Veggie Frittata (cracking eggs, stirring and folding ingredients)
- Peanut Butter Banana Boats (spreading technique)
- Healthy Homemade Trail Mix (work on measurements)
- Turkey, Spinach and Feta Meatballs (roll mixture into balls)
Cooking with 8-11 year olds
Some things to try:
- Use a can opener.
- Whisk using a handheld whisk, mixer or stand mixer.
- Work on sharp knife skills with a kid-size chef knife (how to hold a knife and position their guide hand so their fingertips are curled underneath into a claw position).
- Slice and dice soft foods with the sharp knife (there’s less of a chance their little hands will slip). Once they master softer foods, incorporate harder ones such as green peppers.
- Scoop batter into muffin cups (independently but with supervision).
- Scrape batter out of mixing bowl with a spatula.
- Skewer food.
- Make a sandwich (a step up from the good ‘ole PB & J).
- Flip pancakes, scramble eggs and sauté veggies (independently).
- Set the oven temperature.
- Put leftovers into tupperware containers.
- Follow a simple recipe (with your guidance).
- Continue to have them smell the herbs and spices so they understand how to flavor food.
- Help to plan out a balanced meal.
- Come up with a shopping list together. This promotes organization.
- Shop together and let them locate ingredients. This builds an understanding that food doesn’t just magically end up in the fridge.
- Load and unload the dishwasher.
Some simple recipes your kids can follow with your guidance:
Cooking with ages 12+
Some things to try:
- Cutting whole fruits
- Scrambling eggs
- Flipping pancakes with a spatula
- Browning ground meat
- Sautéing vegetables
- Following a moderately complex recipe
- Brainstorming substitute ingredients to create flexible recipes (broccoli instead of green peppers in a quiche).
- Avoid doing this too much with baking because it often requires very specific measurements and quantities to rise, brown and achieve the proper consistencies.
Some simple recipes your kids can follow on their own:
Tips for mom
Learning opportunities for your culinary kiddos
- Stovetop safety
- Math: counting, measuring, dividing portions, adding and subtracting
- How to fully follow instructions (without wanting to skip around or taste test too much)
- Time and patience
Some great kitchen tools for kids
- Cutting play set
- An all-in-one kitchen play set
- Junior chef knives (for older kids who have mastered the skills of chopping and slicing)
Spending time together in the kitchen will foster an interest in healthy living that will last a lifetime!
Let’s raise a real food generation – together!
Cheers to a healthy lifestyle and living FULLforLife!
xo, Pam & Kalie
We would love to hear how your kiddos are helping in the kitchen. Comment below!
Image getting your family to
Not Only Eat, But Enjoy Healthy Food!
If you’re struggling to get your family on board with a real food lifestyle and want bring joy back to mealtime, Simple Secrets to Getting Your Family to Eat Healthy Foods is for you! This simple system makes it easy for you to create nourishing, peaceful family meals, putting an end to the dinnertime drama once and for all.