Cooking with Children

Cooking with Kids

When I was a child, my mom and stepdad ran restaurants, and while I learned a lot about being a hostess and waitress, I was too small to get into the kitchen and learn the basics of cooking. Then as a teen I lived with my dad and stepmom, but we were so busy that I ate fast food or made a lot of quick meals. Consequently it wasn’t until after I was married that I really learned about cooking techniques. I have found that baking and candy-making are the places where I excel, but I want my girls to learn about all types of cooking.

I have let my oldest daughter (who is six) help me since she was tiny, and she tells me at least once a week that she wants to be a “chef cooker” when she grows up. We watch the Pioneer Woman on the food network, because the food looks good and because she thinks their ranch is fun. We have tried several of her recipes after watching them on the show, and even though my daughter ended up not liking them, the rest of the family did, and that made her proud to be a part of making them.

I realize that cooking with children takes more time, lots of patience and extra clean up time, but it is worth it. I often have to remind myself that it’s okay that flour is flying everywhere, sugar is going to be spilled and I might have to dig egg shells out of the bowl. Not only are you giving them the basis for a skill they can use their entire life, but you get to spend quality time with them working side by side.

Cooking with Kids

Here are some ideas to get you started (this is a basic list that you can adjust based on your child’s abilities):

Under 6 years old:

  • • Scrub, dip, tear, break, and snap
  • • Shake, spread, and cut with a cookie or biscuit cutter
  • • Remove husks from corn
  • • Wash vegetables in a colander
  • • Measure and pour some ingredients
  • • Hand mix
  • • Kneading bread dough (you will have to finish this job, but they like to get their hands dirty)
  • • Practice identifying the measure cups and spoons
  • • Gingerbread house kits. This is great for little kids. (you can buy these after the holidays on clearance and use them later in the year)


7-10 years olds:

  • • Cracking and separating eggs
  • • Reading some recipes by themselves
  • • Inventing their own easy-to-fix recipes
  • • Using the electric mixer (with adult supervision if needed)
  • • Stirring food over the stove (with adult supervision if needed)
  • • Grating cheese
  • • Cutting vegetables, fruits, etc. (using a plastic knife or dinner knife)
  • • Teach them how to double, triple or half recipes

For Christmas 2011, our oldest was given her own set of kitchen tools and an assortment of children’s cookbooks. She enjoys looking through them and asking me questions. A goal I have for this year is to let her help me with one new recipe a week, and as often as possible I like to let her pick what we prepare. We have a rule in our house that you have to try at least one bite of each dish; you can’t declare it gross based on sight or ingredients. Our girls have found things they love and things they hate this way, and since they know it’s only one bite they do try everything we give them. Children also seem to be more willing to try new foods if they had a hand in preparing it.

Do you have any tips on getting children more involved in the kitchen?

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  1. Cute article! I can’t wait to cook with my daughter. She’s only 9 months right now so she only gets to watch me, but I plan to make cooking a big part of her education! You learn so much – science, math, reading, even history and world cultures, health and nutrition not to mention home ec! from cooking. It’s also a wonderful way to bond and make memories. <3

  2. Louanne…you do a fantastic job of teaching and being patient with your girls in the kitchen! I know my mother never taught us as it was just “easier” to do it herself and not as much mess. But when I got married I knew NOTHING. Hence the exploding gravy at Thanksgiving. lol
    So….keep it up and I you inspire me to do better with my girls. My boys know how to cook at least a weeks worth of meals….and they cook for their sisters so that helps alot!
    I feel that is sufficient to get them through for now! 🙂

  3. really great article! i love cooking with my kids, but definitely agree. it takes so much longer to get dinner done than when you cook by yourself. but the memories you make when you cook together are priceless!

  4. Nice post Louanne. My wife usually cooks, however if she is busy with work that I cannot help her with, my daughter & I muck in and cook. My wife writes instructions and my daughter and I navigate our way gingerly through the instructions., Thank God we have never messed up in the kitchen 🙂

  5. We love cooking at home too! We do a lot of it. I start with my kids around 18 months. There is so much they can do even at such a young age. I introduce a small knife by 2 and they whip and beat eggs by then also. I’ve written a few posts about it as well. Hope you don’t mind if I share our adventures with you all. http://homegrownurban.blogspot.com/2012/04/cooking-with-kids.html
    This one was when my 4 year old made dinner almost all by herself. http://homegrownurban.blogspot.com/2012/12/4-year-old-makes-dinner.html

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