Age Appropriate Ways to Involve Children in the Kitchen

In most homes, the kitchen is the focal point of family activity. It is an area where food items are prepared, cooked, and consumed.

While most adults gain mastery in cooking easily, children need the adults to show them how to involve themselves in the creativity and cleaning that occurs in the kitchen daily.

With canceled or reduced outdoor activities due to COVID-19you might be searching for new ways of entertaining the children in the house.

You should make the most of the opportunity when you have children in the house by getting the children involved in your kitchen.

Not only can this train the kids about food skills and healthy eating that lasts forever, but it will also provide you with a break from food planning and cooking.

Research also shows that children who involve themselves in cooking might be more likely to eat vegetables and fruits, open to trying new food items, and more confident in the kitchen.

Tips to Make Children Kitchen Chores Fun

Make sure you keep it enjoyable in your kitchen and try these easy tips that the kids will enjoy.

  1. Planning carefully

Planning a menu together is the best way of getting children involved in your kitchen. Have the kids choose the food they want to assist with and guide them about what ingredients to use to make the meal.

  1. Playing host

Making cooking time playtime instead of a chore is another tip to get children involved in your kitchen.

You can wear matching chef’s hats and aprons, or act as if you are hosting your preferred cooking show with the kids.

If the children learn that cooking is fun, you are readying them for life’s healthy eating habits.

  1. Come up with a menu

Coming up with a central space for planning your grocery and food means children know where to write down their next menu.

Developing the menu with your children gives them more enthusiasm in helping in the kitchen.

This is because they have a sense of ownership over the meals being prepared, the feel that they had a say and their opinion matters in the kitchen too.

  1. Have the most favorable choices

Children who play a part in picking and cooking family food are more interested in the food items they consume. You should teach your kids the principles of great nutrition.

You can achieve this by guiding them towards the right serving sizes and healthier choices.

It is much easier to have a conversation about healthy nutrition with children who are already involved in food preparation.

  1. Start simple

If you are considering what type of food you will make with the children, starting with simple options is the best way to get started.

Pizza, muffins, smoothies, and cookies are often huge hits since only a few steps are involved in their preparation, and the result is always delicious. It is rare that you will go wrong with simple favourite choices.

  1. Start them young 

When you are introducing your kids to the kitchen, consider their stage and age. Toddlers cannot grate cheese or chop vegetables; however, they can bring serviettes to the table.

Involve the kids when they are still young in age appropriate ways, so they know that mealtime is family time, and everybody lends a hand.

  1. Box it up

Having your kids lend a hand in preparing their own lunch boxes provides them with a sense of being responsible as they get older.

It also teaches them how to make balanced food-to-go. In addition, it will be fun choosing new food containers, as well.

  1. Book it

If you want inspiration, getting your kids a book can get out those amazing culinary ideas.

It will not only teach the children cooking methods, but it will also help improve their math skills and determine precise temperatures, timing, and measurements.

If you want to take the book idea a step further, you could also start writing your own homemade simple recipes which you can keep developing as you go along.

  1. Motivate creativity

Making your kitchen an engaging area for children to spend time sends the message this is an area where creativity is encouraged, and everybody is welcome.

  1. Eat it

Lastly, and likely very essential, eating together is the best way you can get your children interested in kitchen creativity.

Tasting, serving, and passing different meals together will show the kids that great food is to be worked towards as well as enjoyed.

Skills that children acquire from kitchen chores

The skills they achieve in your kitchen will be helpful beyond your kitchen. These include:

  • Fine motor skills: Cooking, measuring, and mixing gets children putting into action their hand-eye coordination.
  • Scientific and math thinking: Children mix ingredients as a way of experimenting. They practice math by measuring and calculating. In addition, they see food changing into a tasty meal.
  • Patience: Some chores are less interesting than others, but all chores need to be done. All steps that need patience will make everyone who took part appreciate the outcome.
  • Following directions and working together: Dividing chores among people, following recipe steps, listening to the instruction of parents, sharing kitchen tools and space are all important skills to function well in a team.

When you are bringing up adventurous feeders, it’s not only about sweet-talking children to eat their vegetables.

It takes persistence and patience to raise kids who can enjoy a melon as much as a cupcake. However, it should not feel like a chore.

Children might need to have regular happy experiences involving meals to beat the nervousness they might have around having the taste of the uncommon.

Eventually, cooking with your kids will help in building that confidence, and offer rich sensory experiences.

Ways of enjoying cooking with your kids while bringing up an adventurous feeder along the way include:

  1. Asking for input

Kids feel more involved in family mealtime when you ask them to participate in preparing food. Team up with your children when choosing recipes for main and side dishes.

Allow them to help you come up with the shopping list and find groceries in the farmers market or store.

When you are preparing food together, allow kids to criticize the meals you’re cooking. Collectively you can choose what ingredients you need to add for enhancing the flavor.

Discuss how people enjoy diverse tastes and share your favorites. Allowing kids to be “in control” of details such as setting the table which can help them feel more involved in mealtime.

  1. Make cooking time part of household culture

The household meal may begin in your kitchen as you prepare food together. This is the best time to celebrate your cultural heritage by handing down recipes.

This is also the time to assist your children in finding new, seasonal recipes to add to your family cookbook and selection.

Cooking with the kids and making health a priority over the convenience of prepackaged food are perfect ways of leading by and helping the kids accept a culture of health.

Building seasonal and everyday traditions around preparing food items together will make the family’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle stronger.

  1. Raise intelligent children with cooking

There are lots of lessons that may be taught while preparing food items. Mathematics concepts such as fractions, measurement, and counting naturally emerge when navigating a recipe with your children.

Explaining to the kids how particular food items help the body stay healthy or how meals change with temperature offers the best science lessons.

While preparing meals with your kids, use new terminology as you explain how food tastes, feels and looks.

Following a recipe from beginning to end will help build planning skills and project completion.

  1. Safety

You should teach children the significance of safety while cooking by showing them the best way of turning kitchen appliances on and off safely, sewing oven mitts for protecting the hands from heat, and holding kitchen tools safely.

It would be best to oversee kids when cooking to make sure that they are engaging in age-appropriate activities and safe chores while also adhering to safety rules.

A great way of adhering to safety when cooking is to know the child’s development stage and abilities.

A child of age 4, for instance, might not be ready for sauteing veggies over a pan; however, they might have the fine motor skills for tearing salad leaves or rinsing fruits.

  1. Engaging other senses 

For a doubtful feeder, tasting a different food item will, at times, be daunting. You can help your little one explore food items when cooking with other senses apart from the taste.

Tearing lettuce, rinsing veggies, and kneading dough involve touching food items and being comfy with texture. The complex flavors you experience when you consume meals originate from both smelling with the nose and the tongue’s taste sensations.

While preparing new ingredients, some kids might feel quite overwhelmed to taste. If that takes place, try to suggest smelling a food item first; this might offer a bridge to future tasting.

Babies and toddlers

For infants, there might not be many ways for them to assist in your kitchen at that age. They are simply an infant after all; however, being in your kitchen together will still be advantageous.

Since your little one is most likely already in their baby chair while cooking, you can try to make your kitchen time a learning experience.

You will be surprised how much the child will pick from just watching you engage in your kitchen activities while talking to them and even explaining to them in a fun way what you are doing.

Advantages of cooking near your baby:

  • By chatting and explaining through what you’re doing, you’re assisting your baby’s communication development.
  • Looking at you move around in your kitchen will help little one with visual monitoring.
  • Cooking is the best sensory experience for children of all age groups, even infants. A baby will experience new aromas by being in your kitchen while cooking the food.

Kitchen tasks for different children age groups

Age two and below

The majority of toddlers enjoy assisting in the kitchen. They love touching things and like the idea of consuming Food which they were involved in preparing.

However, this age requires very close supervision by an adult because as their motor skills and mastery continues developing, they become prone to accidents.

This age will do these tasks with little effort:

Using a salad spinner to dry, using a plastic juicing machine, squeeze limes or lemons, washing produce in your sink; collecting fresh leaves off stems, tearing them into small pieces; mashing, squeeze water out of thawed spinach, use a rolling pin for puff pastry or dough, use a pepper grinder, tear lettuce, stirring, use a pastry brush for brushing oil, kneading dough, and sprinkling salt and dried herbs.

These kids should not be allowed to peel, grate or chop herbs and veggies using a knife. They can engage in tasks like breaking eggs under close supervision.

Ages 3 to 5 

In this age group, kids are full of curiosity and energy. That is good. They will be eager to explore ingredients and experiment with a new chore in your kitchen.

However, it may not be surprising they will require lots of supervision. Provide them with basic chores to engage them. The kids are still sharpening their motor skills, so ensure that you go for things that do not require accuracy.

At this age, group hands are their best tools, so concentrate on chores that let them tear, smash, or grab. Below are a few ideas to try out:

  • Kneading dough (you will want to start for them; however, most children like tossing and punching a ball of dough)
  • Tearing
  • Use foil to wrap potatoes for baking
  • Mash ingredients, such as overripe bananas
  • Washing veggies and fruits

Ages 6 to 7 and up

This age often has developed fine motor skills. This means they are able to take part in more detailed work, such as forming uniformly sized patties and use measuring spoons.

Kids might still require reminders to watch their fingers during peeling and kneading. At this age, kids like to brag about things they have learned from school.

They are simply getting started to write and read, so now is the best time of introducing them to recipes. Have the kids read along as you show them simple steps to help make.

Kids also do extremely well at: Grating cheese, mincing and dicing veggies; peeling raw mangoes, ginger, potatoes, and other veggies and fruits; decorating or garnishing food, forming patties and cookies, de-seeding roasted tomatoes, greasing pans, pouring liquids into small containers, rinsing beans and grains, and cutting and scooping out avocados.

Please note that for activities that involve sharp objects like grating or cutting, the close supervision of an adult is still required for this age group.

Ages 8 to 9 and up

There’s an array of skills in this age group. Some eight-year-olds aren’t mature enough to use the stove. Others have the diligence and focus of a grown-up.

Depending on the maturity of your child, you will have to choose if the kids should keep doing the 6 to 7-year-old tasks or if they are responsible enough to do more.

This age group can take more complicated chores like: chop hot chili peppers, skew food, pound chicken, scrap down the (unplugged) food processor bowl and mixer bowl, use a can opener and pizza cutter, slice bread, proof yeast, put away leftovers, and scoop batter into muffin cups.

Ages 10 to 12 and up

This age can often be alone in the kitchen. Before you allow them to do adult chores independently, they need to have close grown-up supervision to evaluate whether they will be able to adhere to basic safety rules like safely using a chef’s knife, unplugging electrical appliances, and tucking pan handles.

Once the kids pass a couple of “tests,” you can allow them to use a chef’s knife, with close supervision by an adult. You can also allow them to do basic chores at the oven and stove like stirring and making eggs.

13-year-olds and up

Teenagers will be ready to handle the challenge of becoming skilled at different kitchen equipment. However, ensure that they know the right safety skills before you start.

Tips like handling raw food items, keeping fingers away from sharp things, and which dishes are oven-safe should be on their fingertips before they can be left in the kitchen unsupervised.

Here are a few skills these kids can handle:

  • Teach them basic clean up skills, like mopping and sweeping the floor, sorting recycling and removing the trash, loading, running, and emptying the dishwasher.
  • Have total control of the microwave
  • Using razor-sharp knives
  • Most teenagers will enjoy a fun cooking over making dinner, so teach them skills like ice cream making.
  • Baking on their own (most teenagers love making cookies with friends)
  • If you are up to the challenge, assign a dinner week as their night to the “head cook.” They will have the chance to create a menu and brag about their expertise to the family. This can help them gain confidence, provide them with a sense of achievement, and provide you with a night off.
  • Using the stovetop to make recipes (try easy scrambling with scrambled eggs)
  • Learning to use different kitchen gadgets, which include a waffle maker, garlic press, blender; coffee maker and a food processor (supervise at first and share safety tips)

Here are things toddlers can do in your kitchen:

  1. Tasting

Encourage the little ones to taste things when cooking, as well as after you are done cooking.

  1. Stir

Give them a bowl of ingredients and a spoon and allow them to stir.

  1. Chop 

Provide them with a small plastic knife and cutting board and allow them to practice slicing soft things such as cooked potatoes, mushrooms, etc.

  1. Spin

Let them rinse the lettuce and use the salad spinner to spin it dry. After that, allow them to serve in the bowls.

  1. Count

Tell the kids the number of items you need and help them practice to count them out for you e.g. four carrots, ten potatoes etc

  1. Peel

Allow the kids to peel some potatoes and carrots by giving them a vegetable peeler.

  1. Crack

Help the kids crack eggs into a bowl, mix and then practice to wash their hands.

  1. Retrieving

Tell the kids what ingredients you require and allow them to get it from you from the pantry.

  1. Tear

Provide them with a head of lettuce and teach them how to take out the leaves, tear into small pieces, and place in the salad spinner.

  1. Store away

Allow the kids to help you empty the dishwasher or bring the groceries and provide them with things to store away in the right place.

  1. Drain/pour

It is best to help them put something in a strainer (warm or cool things), open a can, and allow them to put it in all by themselves. When pouring hot items through a strainer, entrust this task to older children.

Toddlers can also measure ingredients while you help them pour, provide them with a bottle, and pour some in the pan.

  1. Scooping

Make muffins or cookies and allow them to help you scoop the batter into a sink or onto a tray.

General safety tips when involving your children in the kitchen 

Setting clear safety rules is quite beneficial for children as it builds self-discipline and provides them with clear direction. Actually, it is the best idea of establishing the rules together.

If your children participate in helping to set up kitchen rules, they are likely to remember and abide by the rules.

While food preparation is fun, the essential ingredient to any successful meal is safety. Here are some kitchen safety rules for children to start with:

  1. Listen

Cooking with children is the best way of practicing adherence to instructions and building listening skills.

This is the best way of ensuring they do not hurt themselves in times of excitement as they come into contact with something that might be slippery, sharp, or hot.

  1. Washing hands

Small hands usually carry lots of germs. Food safety is all about clean hands and needs to be the first step before anyone touches food any appliance. Remind your child about the importance of clean hands.

  1. Using a towel or potholder for holding and carrying hot items

Trying to handle hot appliances, pots or plates can make you drop meals on the floor or cause burns. You can try to get a colorful potholder or towel, which is just for them, so they’ll get eager to use it.

  1. Asking before tasting

To ensure they do not eat raw ingredients that can cause sickness, allow the children to know they should ask before tasting.

  1. Asking grown-up permission before cooking 

This might look obvious initially; however, as the children get more independent and comfier in your kitchen, they might forget asking questions.

  1. Cleaning up as you go

Cleaning up messes and spills as you go can help in preventing falls and spills. It will also make it simpler to have a clean kitchen ultimately.

Kitchens can be hazardous areas for children of all age groups. Hot stoves, electrical appliances, and knives are all dangerous. So is carrying a hot water pot to the kitchen sink when there is a child close by.

Some safety ground rules that are right for your child’s understanding and skills can help ensure safety in the kitchen. Cleaning as you go along is one of those.