Getting your kids involved in cooking and baking tasks helps them develop important life skills, build fine motor skills, practice math and reading, and create fun family memories. Giving children of all ages the chance to help in the kitchen shows them how to prepare food and demonstrate care for the ones they love.
Before bringing kids into the kitchen, make sure to set aside enough time for any needed supervision and cleanup. Try cooking when little ones are well-rested and have more patience to pay attention and enjoy it. Read on for kitchen tips and activities across age groups and use your best judgement for each individual child’s age and capabilities.
Cooking with kids
Baking with kids
Tips for cooking with kids
How to cook with toddlers
Start with small tasks
Instruct them on how to add pre-measured ingredients or help you stir as you cook. Even turning the pages of a recipe in a cookbook can help make them feel involved.
Show them simple kitchen safety steps
Whether your toddler is watching or helping out with small tasks, it’s never too early for basic cooking safety. This can include warning them about hot surfaces and cutting tools, as well as teaching them about which kitchen items are for adults only versus those that are age appropriate for them.
Let kids help with high-touch activities
Young children are very tactile learners—let them help you with squeezing fruits, smashing soft ingredients and sampling foods along the way.
Activity starter: Use this easy, kid-friendly recipe to make crisp rice cereal treats and count out loud to your toddler as you add the cups of marshmallows and rice cereal to the pot. You can also add food coloring to the melted marshmallows for a fun color. Once they’re cool enough to the touch, but still moldable, let your toddler roll the mixture in their hands to create shapes or cut it out with cookie cutters.
How to cook with elementary-aged kids
Give them kid-friendly tools and tasks
Engage kids in smaller chores to help them feel involved as you keep meal prep moving. Equip them with a potato masher to squish cooked spuds for mashed potatoes or show them how to use a can opener, peel hard-boiled eggs or place toppings on a homemade pizza. Learn how kids can practice fractions using pizza toppings and more with Chore Club activities by Whirlpool.
Let them try new foods along the way
Introduce kids to new tastes and smells as you’re cooking. This can help make new foods seem less intimidating to picky eaters and kids may be more likely to eat foods that they had a hand in making. Guide them in adding seasonings to dishes—so they can learn how different ingredients influence the flavor.
Get them involved in food prep
Set your kids up to rinse produce at the sink and talk to them about the process of preparing and cleaning food. After rinsing, let them tear leafy greens and peel fruits and veggies. Show them how to use a kid-safe knife to prep soft veggies.
Activity starter: Have kids assemble kebabs, letting them pick their favorite fruits or meats and veggies to include. Try a quick and easy lunch kebab recipe. Complete one kebab yourself as an example and have your children practice doing patterns to make the rest just like yours.
How to cook with teens
Show them how to use the kitchen safely
Making sure that your teens know how to properly handle knives, manage hot surfaces, use a meat thermometer and safely work with raw meats are important steps to developing independence in the kitchen. Demo the correct way to chop and start them out with supervision before asking them to complete a chopping task on their own.
Let them choose what to cook
Allowing them to decide what to make and guiding them in building a grocery list will help keep their attention. They’ll have extra incentive to get involved if it’s their favorite meal that’s getting to the dinner table.
Set them up for success, then step back
Teach them how to choose proper pans and ingredients needed for recipes, as well as basics like bringing water to a boil and roasting foods. Give them encouragement, but don’t hover too much after providing instructions and allow them to take responsibility in the kitchen.
Activity starter: Help your teens write a list of their favorite recipes to make. They can start with something simple and quick that they can customize for themselves and their friends, like english muffin pizzas.
Tips for baking with kids
How to bake with toddlers
Put them to work breaking up ingredients
Give your toddler a kid-friendly utensil and a deep bowl and let them crush graham crackers for a pie crust or smash up a few bananas for the start of an easy banana bread recipe.
Let them knead and roll out dough
Little kids love the chance to get their hands messy in gooey dough. It also helps them explore their sense of touch. If you’re baking more delicate recipes, but still want to keep their hands busy, make some kid-friendly cloud dough for them to play with, not eat.
Strengthen pattern recognition while making cookies
Use colorful candy-coated chocolate cookies to engage toddlers. Once the cookies are done baking, remove them from the oven and transfer them to a cool surface. Then, use extra candies to press onto the top of warm cookies, alternating colors or placement to make a pattern. Point the pattern out as you do it, and guide your toddler in following yours or making a pattern of their own. You can follow this cookie recipe to make them.
How to bake with elementary-aged kids
Practice math while measuring
Have them help you read the recipe and measure out ingredients, doubling as needed. It’s also a good time to educate them on different measuring tools, from teaspoons to measuring cups. Explore a simple cookie recipe that helps kids learn addition and subtraction as they bake.
Show them how to navigate basic baking tasks
Show your children how to place wax paper on a cookie sheet, grease a pan, use different measuring cups for wet and dry ingredients, crack an egg and set a timer.
Teach your kids simple science using bread
Use an easy bread dough that calls for yeast, letting your kids measure ingredients, help with prep and see how the bread rises.
Activity starter: While making bread, explain the basic science behind how yeast is activated by warm water to eat the sugars in dough, producing gas that then causes bread to rise and result in fluffy pockets of air throughout.
How to bake with teens
Help them bake a cake and decorate it
Making a cake and doing all the decorating can be a good creative outlet and give teens a sense of pride once completed. Show them how to use a mixer, safely move oven racks and check a cake for doneness. Try out this quick and easy chocolate cake recipe with your teen.
Make a family recipe
If your teen has always been obsessed with Grandma’s homemade apple pie or Dad’s Sunday morning cinnamon rolls, help them use a family recipe to master the famed dessert.
Let them decide what to make
Self expression is an important part of teen development and letting them pick recipes that peak their interest will keep them engaged in the process. Let them get creative, experiment with new recipes, and own the results.
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Laundry chores for kids
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How to properly load a dishwasher
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