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Kids in the Kitchen: Age appropriate kitchen and cooking tasks for kids

Updated: Oct 14

Involving kids in the kitchen to help prepare meals and cook, can offer your child, or loved one, the opportunity to learn valuable life skills that will last a lifetime, and can also be a great way to strengthen your relationship with your child or loved one too.

Kids in the kitchen, a guide for how to include kids in the cooking and meal preparation process


Benefits to cooking with kids:


Cooking with kids can help:

  • Develop healthy eating behaviors

  • Encourage the trying of new foods

  • Make healthy food choices

  • Reduce picky food eating behaviors

  • Develop positive relationships with food


In addition, cooking with kids can help develop:

  • Math, science and literacy skills

  • Fine and gross motor skills

  • Kitchen and food safety skills

  • Understanding of your own family food culture and food traditions and others too


Cooking with kids can also help build:

  • Self esteem and confidence

  • Connection between you and your child or loved one.


What are age appropriate kitchen or cooking tasks for kids?

The following table includes proposed age appropriate cooking tasks for kids.


Please make note, all kids develop at their own pace, so it will be important to use your best judgment for helping to decide when your child is ready to move to more advanced and independent stages.


Proposed Age Appropriate Cooking Tasks*:

​Age

Tasks

Additional notes

​2-3 years

Rinsing fruit and vegetables

Kneading

Mixing with hands

Tearing

Breaking vegetables into pieces

Using a rolling pin

Rolling mixtures into balls

Using a cookie cutter

Stirring and mixing

Mashing



All under supervision.

​3-5 years

Cutting, chopping, slicing with supervision Spreading, buttering Brushing oil with a pastry brush Breading, flouring and dipping Sieving Squeezing

Start with child safe knives/plastic/butter knives and foods like herbs and bananas.


As kids develop in skill, age and strength, sharper knives may be introduced.


All under supervision.



5-7 years

​Sprinkling and rubbing in Picking, podding Greasing Peeling with Fingers Skewering Pouring from a container Crushing and pounding Shaking liquids in a sealed container

All under supervision.

7-9 years



Weighing and measuring Using a grater Using an oven or microwave Draining Using a hand mixer Using a peeler

All under supervision.

​9 + years

Using a can opener

Stirring and mixing over heat

Using sharp scissors


_______________________


Skewering

Weighing and measuring

Using a grater

Using an oven or microwave

Using a hand mixer



Under supervision. _______________________ Unsupervised.

*Source: Moira Dean, Chloe O'Kane, Johann Issartel, Amanda McCloat, Elaine Mooney, David Gaul, Julia A. Wolfson, Fiona Lavelle, Guidelines for designing age-appropriate cooking interventions for children: The development of evidence-based cooking skill recommendations for children, using a multidisciplinary approach, Appetite, Volume 161, 2021,105125, ISSN 0195-6663, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2021.105125.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666321000337)



Looking for more ways kids can help out with meals? Try seeking their help with the following:


  • Decision making in planning of meals/components of meals or snacks

  • Help in creating a grocery list

  • Help to select and collect items from the grocery list at the store or market and help in unloading groceries too

  • Help in setting, clearing and cleaning the countertops or table, pouring drinks, folding napkins, throwing items in the trash, putting condiments and leftovers away, washing dishes, or loading and unloading the dishwasher

  • Packing lunches and snacks

  • Following a recipe to create a meal or snack.


For some additional ideas with family meals and promoting child health and nutrition, please visit here:



What are your favorite ways to involve kids in the kitchen? As always I invite you to comment and share!



Resources:


Morris, Bradley & Zentall, Shannon & Murray, Grace & Owens, Whitney. (2021). Enhancing Informal Stem Learning Through Family Engagement in Cooking. Proceedings of the Singapore National Academy of Science. 15. 119-133. 10.1142/S2591722621400111. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/353184301_Enhancing_Informal_Stem_Learning_Through_Family_Engagement_in_Cooking


Moira Dean, Chloe O'Kane, Johann Issartel, Amanda McCloat, Elaine Mooney, David Gaul, Julia A. Wolfson, Fiona Lavelle, Guidelines for designing age-appropriate cooking interventions for children: The development of evidence-based cooking skill recommendations for children, using a multidisciplinary approach, Appetite, Volume 161, 2021,105125, ISSN 0195-6663, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2021.105125.(https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0195666321000337)


Melissa D. Olfert, Rebecca L. Hagedorn, Miriam P. Leary, Kaitlyn Eck, Karla P. Shelnutt, Carol Byrd-Bredbenner,Parent and School-Age Children's Food Preparation Cognitions and Behaviors Guide Recommendations for Future Interventions, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 51, Issue 6, 2019, Pages 684-692,ISSN 1499-4046, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2019.01.022. (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1499404619300776)






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