Skip to Content

Published on September 20, 2017

kids helping mom bake

How Do You Cook With Kids? Prepare Your Patience and Your Taste Buds

Would you like your child to be a more adventurous eater and encourage healthy eating habits? Are you looking for a way to spend some quality time with your child?

If so, many experts think cooking with your child could provide all of these benefits.

Here are a few more positives that may come with parent/child cooking experiences:

  • Children feel a sense of accomplishment when they cook
  • Children feel they are contributing to the family
  • Children may be more likely to eat food that they have helped prepare
  • Cooking provides time away from screens
  • Cooking can instill self confidence in children

Before you embark on a parent/child cooking adventure, remember that you will need an appropriate amount of time, a good deal of patience, and a little extra effort in the clean-up department. Turn off the screens, turn on some music, and get ready for some fun!

Think Safety First

For young children, provide a sturdy stool to help them reach the work surface. Avoid loose clothing and tie back long hair. Think about utensils that are safe for children to use. For spreading, you can substitute wooden craft sticks for knives and use plastic bowls and measuring cups instead of glass.

A plastic knife or cheese knife will work to cut things like soft fruits and vegetables. Always match cooking activities with your child’s age and abilities. Make sure to choose a recipe that has enough things for the child to actually do; kids get bored when they have to stand and watch. Supervision is essential. Adults should handle the use of knives and other sharp utensils, stove tops, ovens and microwave ovens.

What Kids of Different Ages Can Do

Toddlers can dump, stir, fill, and tear. Let them dump the eggs into the batter, stir the grapes into the fruit salad, fill a measuring cup with strawberries, and tear lettuce.

Preschoolers can do all of those things plus: measure with help, mix, spread, grate, whisk, cut, and sprinkle. Encourage them to do things like mix the pancake batter with a spatula, spread peanut butter onto toast, whisk eggs, cut tomatoes, and sprinkle cheese on pizza or casseroles.

School-aged kids can do all of those things plus chop with supervision, use equipment like a blender or microwave (after a safety lesson,) plan a cooking activity by searching for recipes, make a shopping list, gather ingredients and supplies, and read and follow directions.

Kids love to give their opinions. Let them choose a recipe, or choose an unusual fruit, vegetable, herb or spice to try. After the cooking activity, let kids rate the finished product: younger kids can give a thumbs up or thumbs down while older kids can rate recipes with one to five stars, or maybe fill out a “comment card” that they create.

What Kids Can Learn

Cooking activities give kids experience with math, science, and language and help them develop fine motor skills.

  • Fractions: ¼ cup, ⅔ cup, ½ teaspoon
  • Measuring: cup, tablespoon, pound
  • Counting: One, two, three cups of flour
  • Volume: full, empty
  • States of matter: water is a liquid, ice is a solid, steam is a gas
  • Temperature changes the state of matter: gelatin solidifies when cold, butter melts when heated
  • Cooking techniques have names: mix, whisk, chop, fold and blend
  • Colors and color change: shrimp turn pink when we sauté them, grapes are different colors

Cooking with kids has endless opportunities for fun and learning. Give it a try –your child may not end up on Chopped Junior, but he or she will reap many benefits from this activity.

Subscribe to our

wellness e-newsletter

Moving Health Forward

Avera is a health ministry rooted in the Gospel. Our mission is to make a positive impact in the lives and health of persons and communities by providing quality services guided by Christian values.

© 2022 Avera Health, Sioux Falls, SD. All Rights Reserved.