Involving your children in the kitchen enhances their appreciation and basic knowledge of different foods and good nutrition. You can teach them safe ways to handle food as well as simple cooking techniques. Plus, the time spent together is invaluable family time and encourages a lifetime of healthy eating.
Starting around age three, you're sure to have a "helper" in the kitchen, underfoot and ready for anything you hand him. Put him to work making a simple fruit salad. Bring a chair to the sink and let him help you wash the fruit, dump the ingredients into a large bowl, and stir everything together. This recipe calls for peeling and sectioning. Show your child how to pull the peel off the fruit while you take care of the sectioning. Let mom or dad halve the grapes and make sure to use a deep bowl when combining-otherwise, some of the ingredients may end up on the floor.
Cookies are a favorite for children of any age but by age four, they should be able to help measure and spoon out cookies onto a baking sheet. While the cookies bake, let them squeeze lemons to make some homemade lemonade to go along with those cookies). They love responsibility, so assign them a task and your kitchen to-do list will fly by as they work.
Age 5 to 6
At this age, kids are old enough to count and follow instructions at the same time, so have them count out the ingredients (18 slices of polenta) for this yummy sausage lasagna. It's packed with veggies and because your child helped prepare it, she's much more likely to eat what's on her plate at dinner. Give her a measuring cup and have her measure out the vegetable amounts as you chop them.
Age 7 to 8
School-age kids are all about rules, so let them help plan the menu for the week. Test their reading by having them call out what spices you have on hand in the pantry (sound it out! "Car-do-mom."). Roll up their sleeves and let the kids measure the flour, knead the dough, and try a hand a cracking an egg in the recipe for Triple-Play Cinnamon Rolls. When you prepare the yeast in warm water, show you children how a thermometer works, and ask if they can tell you how warm the yeast mixture is.
Age 9 to 12
Test that new-found dexterity and coordination by letting your child open the cans for this kid-friendly tomato soup. Prepare and chop all the ingredients ahead of time and let her follow the recipe while you watch from nearby. Kids this age are often involved in science projects with school, so following a recipe feels more like a neat math and science game than cooking dinner. Make sure you're on hand to chop, blend, and supervise when stirring at the stove.
Age 13 to 16
If you're interested in testing your child's legs in the kitchen, let them create Herb-and-Veggie Meat Loaf start to finish while you supervise. They'll enjoy learning what ingredients go into their family favorites, and it's a great time to teach them basic kitchen principles about raw ingredients and cross contamination. Fill the 45-minute cook time with a little multitasking-ask your child what else should go on the plate to make a balanced meal, then let them instruct you in making a salad or simple veggie side.
More Kid-Friendly Foods
Kids only! Check out even more recipes and menu ideas created just for kids.
Cooking with kids in the kitchen has many benefits. It is a great learning experience and it can make for wonderful and interactive quality time. But the kitchen is also one of the most dangerous rooms in the house. Inviting a child to share experiences in the kitchen requires constant supervision and guidance at any age. Here are a few tips to help you both enjoy the experience.
Before kids begin cooking, they need to learn basic cooking safety.
You can create fun apple crafts at home with your kids during cooking time. An apple a day keeps the boredom away, especially when the apple you have is turned into an old fashioned apple-head doll!