Kids in the Kitchen

Picture of child and parent cooking

Thinking of getting your kids started in the kitchen? Children can begin helping in the kitchen as early as age two, and before this, can be worn in a sling when preparing cold foods or can watch from a highchair. Getting children in the kitchen as early as possible can have major benefits for both kids and their families. Not only do children learn food skills, but they can also learn what it means to eat healthy and how to put together a balanced meal. For picky eaters, cooking encourages children to try new foods. For the youngest kids, helping in the kitchen develops fine motor skills, and helps with learning math and reading. It can be messy, but with some patience, letting your kid chef help you cook can help your child grow and spend quality time with family.

Safety First
There are many ways that children and toddlers, can play kid chef and help you in the kitchen. Safety is the main priority and children should be taught the following when starting to cook:
  • Hygiene: teach children to wash their hands before and after cooking, after touching their face, and after touching raw meat or eggs (TIP: sing Happy Birthday two times when washing hands)
  • Clothing: teach children to avoid wearing baggy clothes while cooking and to tie up long hair
  • Cooking Station: teach children to start and finish with a clean workstation
  • Cross-Contamination: explain to children that raw meat and eggs can make them sick and should be separated from other foods. Also, any food that touches the floor should be composted
  • Appliances and Tools: teach children which items in the kitchen get hot or are sharp and should not be touched unless they are given permission and an adult is present

Does your child have an allergy and you’re not sure what they can help cook? Book a virtual cooking class for kids with our registered dietitian and chef who will accommodate special dietary needs!

Picture of child cracking eggs

How Can my Child Help?
The following list includes ways that your child can help cook in the kitchen based on their age. Children can continue to use and build on each skill. Some children may be able to complete more mature tasks while others may be unable to complete the suggested tasks for their age group. Do not be concerned as this list is only a guide and kids develop skills at different rates. Always use your own judgement when deciding what tasks your child can safely manage.
2-3 Years of Age
At this age, children can be eager to help and see what you are doing in the kitchen. These kids are developing their fine motor skills and require lots of supervision. Let them explore sight, touch, smell, taste, and sound. Children 2-3 can:

  • Wash produce
  • Count ingredients
  • Add ingredients (Tip: measure for them and help guide ingredients into the bowl if needed)
  • Squeeze lemons and limes (Tip: microwave citrus for 20-30 seconds and roll on the counter before juicing)
  • Pick herbs off stems
  • Spread sauces and sprinkle seasonings
  • Put muffin cups in muffin tins
  • Use cookie cutters to cut dough
  • Decorate and garnish

Picture of child washing produce

3-4 Years of Age
Children 3-4 years-old are continuing to develop their fine motor skills but can complete slightly more detailed tasks. Children 3-4 can:

  • Mix ingredients
  • Whisk eggs
  • Knead dough
  • Grease pans
  • Mash potatoes or bananas (Tip: place peeled bananas in a closed plastic bag to mash with your hands!)
  • Fill muffin trays and cake pans with batter

4-6 Years of Age
Children 4-6 years-old can start to get picky and helping cook their meals may encourage them to try it. These kids are ready to use more tools in the kitchen. Children 4-6 can:

  • Use kids scissors to cut ingredients
  • Use kid-friendly knives to chop soft foods (Tip: start children with nylon knives and teach them how to properly hold a knife)
  • Use a hand chopper to dice
  • Measure dry and wet ingredients (Tip: get kids to measure over a separate bowl or the sink!)

Struggling with a picky eater in your house? Click here to book a session with a dietitian that can help!
6-8 Years of Age
Children 6-8 years-old can start following the steps to simple recipes an
d can use some basic appliances with supervision. Kids 6-8 can:

  • Crack and beat eggs (Tip: use half of the shell to scoop any shell fragments out of the bowl!)
  • De-seed peppers
  • Toss foods together in a bowl
  • Use basic kitchen tools like a blender, toaster, peeler, grater or can opener with supervision

8-11 Years of Age
Children 8-11 years-old are more coordinated and independent. These kids do not need as much supervision and are able to understand how to safely use appliances. Kids 8-11 can:

  • Use a regular kitchen knife with harder foods than before (Tip: teach kids to place the flat side down when cutting food and create a flat side for them if needed)
  • Use a stove with supervision
  • Use the oven to bake with supervision
  • Use a microwave with supervision

Concerned about your kids using kitchen tools? Proper knife handling and kitchen safety is covered in our virtual cooking lessons for kids. Connect with us via email to book in!

Picture of child using learning tower

Kid-Friendly Kitchen Tools
Letting your kids use kitchen tools can be scary at first. It is important to teach children how to properly use kitchen tools and when to be cautious. Kid-friendly kitchen tool swaps can better fit into small hands or make cooking easier for kids. Some kitchen tools you may want to try are:

  • A learning tower a special enclosed stool for kids aged 2-6 that brings them to the height of the countertop
  • Nylon knives a good knife to start children with at ages 4-6. Consider graduating children to a serrated nylon knife, a paring knife and then to a normal kitchen knife around ages 8-11
  • Crinkle cutter a tool used with two hands to cut veggies into fun crinkle strips and can be introduced with a nylon knife
  • Palm peeler a peeler that is held in the palm of the hand and can be easier for children to hold
  • Garlic press a tool to easily mince garlic and allow younger children to complete this task as well
  • Hand powered chopper a tool to dice ingredients easily and safely
  • Mixing bowls with non-slip basebowls that will not easily slip off the countertop to avoid spills and frustration

Tips to Get Kids Engaged
Some children may have no interest in cooking at all. Have patience and always celebrate their accomplishments and thank them for their help when they do get involved. Try your best not to fix what they do for example, not evenly spreading out pizza toppings or sauces, as this can be discouraging. Always taste what you make together and talk about the flavours, textures, and colours of the food. Some great ways to encourage children to get involved include starting an herb or vegetable garden together and allowing kids to choose recipes that they would like to try making and eating. Allow kids to play with their food and make their dishes into fun shapes and animals with lots of colour. Overall, have fun and allow your kids to make a mess and explore!

Not sure where to get started? Click here to book a virtual cooking class with our registered dietitian and chef for your kids or the family!

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