Get your kid in the kitchen
Some of the sweetest family times seem to center around food and food preparation, which is probably the reason why the kitchen is called the heart of the home. How many times have you found yourself part of a big, laughing crowd of family members each trying to help finish up preparation for Thanksgiving or some other special meal?
There’s no reason that kind of connection can’t happen on ordinary days, or why kids can’t be part of the crowd too. In fact, there are some great reasons why having your kids or grandkids participate in meal preparation is a good idea. First, being a part of the cooking process means they may be more likely to eat what you’re making, because as collaborators they have a vested interest in the outcome. Secondly, giving children age-appropriate responsibilities in the kitchen is a hands-on way to help them learn about responsibility, pitching in, and being part of a team. It’s obviously also a fantastic way for them to learn about healthy food, food and kitchen safety, and cooking techniques. You’ll be teaching them skills and knowledge that will last a lifetime.
The Kids Cook Monday1 has some suggested kitchen tasks based on the age group of your child or grandchild:
Ages 2 – 3
- Toddlers require very close adult supervision, but they can do the following tasks with minimal supervision
- Squeezing lemons, limes and oranges using a plastic juicer
- Washing produce in the sink and drying it in a salad spinner
- Picking fresh herbs off the stems and ripping them into smaller pieces
- Sprinkling pre-measured herbs and salt into bowls
- Stirring and mashing
- Rolling out dough using a rolling pin
- This is also a great age to teach them how to crack eggs, grate, peel and chop vegetables and herbs but they need close supervision for these tasks.
Ages 4 – 5
- Depending upon the child’s maturity, ability, and development, as well as their independence and find motor skills, they may still be perfecting the 2 – 3 year-old tasks or moving onto the 6 – 7 year-old tasks.
Ages 6 – 7
- Using measuring spoons
- Forming evenly sized patties and cookies
- Pouring liquids into small containers
- Grating cheese
- Dicing and mincing vegetables
- Peeling raw potatoes and other fruits and vegetables
- Greasing the pan
- They may still need reminders to watch their fingers during grating, peeling and cutting
Ages 8 – 9
- Using a pizza cutter and can opener
- Scooping batter into muffin tins
- Putting away leftovers
- Pounding chicken
- Scraping down the sides of mixer bowls and food processor bowls (unplugged, of course!)
- Slicing bread
- Skewering food
Ages 10 and up
- Most children in this age group can usually work independently in the kitchen, but an adult should always assess their ability to follow basic rules (like tucking in pan handles, unplugging electrical appliances, and using a knife safely) before allowing them to move onto basic tasks at the stove and oven or using a chef’s knife without close adult supervision
You know your child better than anyone, so it’s perfectly fine if they are not ready to move onto a new age category and still require a little extra time mastering simpler tasks meant for younger children. Safety is the most important thing, and they will still enjoy being given special tasks to do. Allowing them to work at their own pace and master techniques will also eliminate frustration if they move on to more advanced tasks too quickly.
Part of the secret to getting kids in the kitchen is giving them some say in the decision making process where meals are concerned. Sit down on Saturday – or the day before you do your weekly grocery shopping – and plan the week’s meals together. If your child is old enough and able, they could slowly start to take on almost sole responsibility for one meal per week.
413718C CAN/US (05/16)