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How to Cook With Kids of Any Age

How to Cook With Kids of Any Age

Many of us cook for our families  almost every night, but how often do we involve our kids in cooking projects? There's almost always a good reason not to: It will be too messy, we tell ourselves. He might burn his hand on the oven. Or the dish requires precise measurement and won't come out right if my 4 year-old does the measuring. But there are even better reasons to let your kids help. Cooking builds kids' confidence. It helps them develop both gross and fine motor skills, and it's a fun way to practice both reading and math. And most kids are eager to help!

Cooking with your kids is also a great opportunity for family bonding and a wonderful way to introduce them to new skills and new flavors. Here, a guide to making it fun and fruitful whether you have a toddler, a preschooler, a grade-school-aged child, or beyond.

Tips for Cooking With Toddlers

Toddlers are perhaps the most eager kitchen helpers of all age groups, but they also tend to overestimate their abilities, which can result in big kitchen messes. Think cups of milk spilled on the floor and your little one covered in flour from head to toe.



Circle of Moms member Jessica G.'s 2-year-old loves to bake, and he helps her measure liquids and pour them carefully into bowls. My son, too, has always been interested in what goes on in the kitchen, and by 18 months we had him involved in scrambling eggs and making pancakes on the weekends. The trick is to keep him away from the hot stove, which we resolved by getting him a step stool and placing it at the side of the stove. This way, he's high enough to watch, doesn't need to be held, and can see the action well enough to be content to stay a couple feet away from the flame.

Karen H.'s 2-year-old is obsessed with stirring, so she gives him various projects that involve spoons while she cooks around him. Judy D.'s two kids have a visible sense of pride when they accomplish something in the kitchen, from helping make grilled cheese sandwiches or eggs on toast.

One tip: If your little one can't yet pour liquids or measure, set her up with a play kitchen right next to you. She can practice with a little water and/or flour some unbreakable bowls. When she's ready to make the transition to real equipment, she'll be familiar with some important aspects of the cooking process.

Tips for Cooking With Preschoolers

Preschool-aged kids usually need less supervision than toddlers, but you'll still need to take extra precautions when you're doing prep work with sharp knives or cooking around a hot stove or oven.

Denisha R. lets her 5-year-old bake cookies by herself. Mom puts out all the ingredients and lets her daughter go to town.


Kristin K. has two pre-school age kids, and she gives them each assignments in the kitchen. They love to make cookies, s'mores, burritos, fruit salads and pizza. Pizza and burritos are particularly successful because each child can customize his or her own food. Not only do kids get a sense of accomplishment when they make something they can eat, but you also stand a better chance of them actually finishing their meal. And Kristin gets ideas for future cooking projects when her kids are pretending to cook in their play kitchen.

Addie taught her kids fractions at a young age because they were always in the kitchen with her, measuring, combining, and cooking.

This age can be a good time to introduce dull knives, with supervision. Most kids love to cut, and it's a valuable skill. Just remember to have your child sitting down (so as not to fall while holding a pointed object), and teach him the proper way to hold a knife early on. He can practice cutting dough or cooked vegetables. (Stay away from hard cheeses and raw/dense vegetables, such as carrots one little slip could cause injury.

Tips for Cooking With Bigger Kids

It's sometimes difficult to get older kids interested in cooking, but you can often lure them into the kitchen by letting them choose what to make, or by presenting a particular challenge. Michelle M.'s 12-year-old is responsible for cooking one meal per week, and her meatloaf is now legendary among the extended family.

Some big kids think of cooking as a chore. One way to get them interested is to let them cook for their friends. Whether they're having a sleepover, or have just invited a few friends over for dinner, challenge your child to design a healthy menu, help shop for groceries, then cook the meal. And, yes, clean up when the meal is done.


Jennifer R.'s family started a kids' cooking club among their neighbors and friends, and now they rotate houses and divide up duties. They ask one or two parents to join in and supervise. It's been a marvelous learning experience for all, and parents get to hang out and catch up with each other, too.

As Circle of Moms member Addie points out, we have a responsibility to help our kids develop thier culinary aptitude, just as we help them learn other self-care skills such as bathing and dressing. And as Dolly A.'s son proves, introducing a kid to cooking early can lead to a lifetime love of this practical art. He was always helping in he kitchen as a kid, and now, as a young adult, he is studying Japanese cooking at a culinary school

Image Source: cproppe via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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