Cooking with Children: An Age-by-Age Guide

Kneading Dough

In honor of National Kids Takeover the Kitchen day on Sept. 13, what better way to spark your kid’s interest in healthy eating than to get them involved in the kitchen? Starting them cooking young can develop their passion for watching what they eat and creating healthy meals while teaching them skills they can take into adulthood (plus you’ll get an extra pair of hands helping out with the prep work!). But where do you start? Use this guide to see what kids are capable of at different ages:

  • Preschoolers (ages 2 to 5): Younger children’s motor skills are still developing, so start them off with short, simple tasks. With your supervision, they can mix and stir ingredients, pour liquids and wash fruits and vegetables.
  • School-age children (ages 6 to 8): They can start handling simple kitchen tools like graters and can openers, as well as cutting soft foods with a blunt knife (or if you think they are ready, you can introduce a sharper knife). Be sure to supervise them and show them safety tips, like how to form their hand into a claw to keep fingertips out of danger and when to stop as their hand gets close to the grater. They can also start portioning ingredients for recipes with measuring cups and spoons. This can help incorporate math skills into cooking.
  • Preteens (ages 9 to 12): As their confidence grows in the kitchen, they will be able to take on basic recipes, such as cooking eggs, pancakes and grilled cheese. They can also start using kitchen appliances such as the blender and the oven. Discussing the recipes with your children can also help teach them about the science of cooking.
  • Teenagers (ages 13 to 18): At this stage, they should be able to develop more complex skills and take the lead in technical tasks. You can help further their kitchen knowledge by introducing cooking math, such as how to divide food into portions and double recipes. Continue to broaden their horizons by trying new and different ingredient combinations as well as informing them about food hygiene/storage.

Remember, you are the expert on what your child is capable of and supervision is recommended until you and your child are confident in their kitchen skills. Check out ahealthiermichigan.org for more kids cooking resources. Now, get cooking!

A Healthier Michigan

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