For many of us cooking can be boring, tedious and just a necessity for our family’s survival. As a parent you may feel overwhelmed and just want to get food on the table so your family can eat and then get on with the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Your kitchen should be the heart of the household, so what better way to get out of the cooking rut than to involve the entire family!
There are many reasons to get your children involved in the cooking and meal preparation process. In addition to being a great chance to spend time and bond with your children, your children will develop new motor and critical thinking skills. Your children will also learn how to follow directions and feel a sense of accomplishment from helping you. It is important to establish healthy eating habits from an early age and children who help with meal preparation are more likely to eat what they prepare and try new foods without a fuss! Plus, cooking is also an important skill that they will take with them for the rest of their life.
When involving kids in the cooking process, please keep in mind that their ages will determine what they may be able to help with. Please always supervise young children while they are in the kitchen and especially when they are using cutting instruments or kitchen appliances.
After washing your hands, the entire family can begin cooking! Here are some ideas for activities for different age groups:
- Two year olds are developing their muscles and can help by wiping down surfaces, scrubbing fruits and vegetables, carrying unbreakable items to and from the table and fridge, washing and tearing greens or breaking larger vegetables and bread into smaller pieces.
- Three year olds are developing fine motor skills and can help by setting the table, pouring and mixing dry and liquid ingredients (after they are measured by an adult), spreading butter or other spreads, washing foods, kneading doughs, shaking bottles and helping to clear the table or preparation area and throw trash away.
- Four and five year olds continue to refine their fine motor skills and work on manual dexterity and can help by measuring dry ingredients, squeezing or juicing fruit, peeling fruits and vegetables, mashing or cutting soft foods, using cookie cutters, cracking and whisking eggs and cleaning up after dinner by clearing plates, wiping down surfaces and throwing trash away.
When cooking with your children it is important that you have fun together! Be patient and remember that children may take a bit longer to do things than an adult would. The cooking and preparation process might be messy and the end product might not look pretty. Enjoy your time together and praise and encourage your kiddos at every step of the process!
Check out these two kid-friendly recipes for a great family meal, Apple Cheddar Salad and Veggie Lasagna:
Curious to learn more? Here are additional resources for cooking with kids:
Cookbook with recipes and tips for cooking with kids, in English and Spanish!
Ten Tips for Better Family Meals
How to get kids into the kitchen!
Have fun cooking with your family!