Like I mentioned in my last post, despite the benefits, we still get weary about allowing our kids to cook with us. Especially the young ones. The key, is to understand what skills our kids should have at different ages. Having this understanding allows us to safely foster their independence, while allowing us an opportunity to encourage healthier eating habits.
Cooking Skills Ages 2-5
At this age, preschoolers are starting to develop their motor skills. These skills can be used in the kitchen to help cook healthy meals the whole family can enjoy. The kitchen skills most preschool aged kids can do are:
- Sort Ingredients
- Rinse fruits and vegetables
- Pour with assistance
- Add ingredients to mixing bowl, blender, or food processor
- Start to read recipes
- Perform simple measurements
- Cut with a plastic or butter knife
- Use kitchen shears to cut herbs
- Crack eggs
- Whisk eggs
- Push the start and stop button on blender or food processor
- Use cookie cutters
Cooking Skills Ages 6-12
Early school aged children are ready to take on more difficult tasks in the kitchen. As they learn to read, write, and understand basic math concepts their responsibility in the kitchen can increase. As kids progress into using sharp objects, like knives, be sure to provide them with good supervision until you feel comfortable with their skills using the utensil. Close and constant supervision is still recommended. Kids at this age can:
- Select recipes to prepare
- Find and gather ingredients from a recipe
- Read and follow a recipe
- Create a shopping list
- Cut with a small sharp knife with supervision
- Use graters and peelers with supervision
- Add frosting to cake and cupcakes
- Use a can opener and juicer
- Peel fruits and vegetables
- Boil eggs and pasta
Cooking Skills Ages 9-12
Kids in this age group should be more independent in the kitchen requiring less supervision. Once you become comfortable with your child using different appliances and kitchen gadgets you can give them more freedom to do their own food experimentation. Allow them to get creative in the kitchen by developing their own recipes and trying new things. Kids in this age group can:
- Place and remove food from the oven
- Use timers and thermometers
- Roast vegetables
- Cook pancakes on a griddle
- Fry hamburgers
- Safely use large knives
- Use a food processer, blender, and mixer
Cooking Skills Ages 13-18
Teenagers can safely cook independently. It’s a good idea to help them understand food labels and nutritional information to help foster healthy eating habits. Encourage your teenagers to try different foods and create healthy meals. Allow for them to be creative in the kitchen while using healthy ingredients.
As our kids get older, their skills progress with them. The earlier they are introduced to the kitchen and different cooking skills, the more competent they will become in making delicious, healthy meals. When working with different foods, gadgets, and utensils it’s important our kids understand the importance of kitchen safety. To ensure everyone has a fun, enjoyable time in the kitchen without getting sick or injured here are some important rules to follow:
Kitchen Safety Rules
- Always supervise your children until you know they are mature enough to handle the cooking responsibility. Not all kids mature at the same rate. Your 8-year-old may not be ready to use small sharp knives but your neighbors 6-year-old can. Allow your kids’ skills to mature at their own rate. There is no need to rush a child into a skill they aren’t ready for. That is a recipe for disaster.
- Educate your kids on proper hand hygiene. Always wash your hands before and after cooking a meal.
- Teach your kids the importance of staying away from hot surfaces and using appropriate equipment to remove hot items from the stove or oven
- Keep pot and pan handles towards the back of the stove to keep them from being knocked over and causing burns.
- Teach your kids the appropriate way to handle raw eggs and meat.
- Kids need to know how to effectively clean a cooking area before and after the meal is completed
- Use different cutting boards for meats and produce
Cooking is a life skill we all need and as parents we should be teaching our kids how to cook. Kids of all ages can help in the kitchen. We can safely have our 2 year old mix ingredients while our 8 year old grates some cheese. Proper guidance and safety in the kitchen fosters independence our kids will be able to use as adults to create healthy, wholesome meals for their families.
Ashley N. is originally from Baton Rouge and moved to Mandeville with her husband and their 2 children. She loves to dance, cook, and spend time with her family. When she is not working as an occupational therapist, Ashley has a thriving health coaching practice. Her coaching focuses on helping busy, working moms find balance between family, life, and health. She also blogs at Happy Healthy and Well where she shares tips, tricks, and insights on living a healthy lifestyle while still having time for family and work.
Weary = fatigued, wary = watchful or cautious
I only mention this because the use of “weary” changes the tone of the opening paragraph.