Frugal Living » Kids in the kitchen

Kids in the kitchen

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Cooking can be a creative activity for your kids. If children see cooking as creative, imagine the recipes they can dream up. . . now and when they grow up. Children can also learn many things by being in the kitchen – from simple shapes, numbers & colors to learning about cultures around the world, including their own ethnic heritage.


Reading recipes and following directions will help children learn new words and concepts and how to plan ahead. Cooking is also a good opportunity to teach safety rules for handling kitchen utensils and for safe food practices. Allowing children to help with the cooking, will help them learn about nutrition, healthy foods, and portion sizes.

Use the Food Guide Pyramid to talk about healthy eating with your children. While helping to prepare a meal, your children can ask questions. They may want to know where a food comes from, how it grows, or how it gets to the grocery store.

If there is a cooking mistake, help them think about what happened and why. Was the problem in measuring, combining ingredients, using the wrong ingredient, pan or temperature?

In addition to measuring, cutting recipes in half or doubling recipes, more math concepts can be examined by calculating the cost of a recipe or the whole meal. Don’t overlook the possibility that cooking with your kids contributes to their emotional and social development.


When children learn how to cook they feel a sense of pride and pleasure related to self-confidence and self-worth. Children can develop a sense of independence by preparing simple snack foods themselves.

Children can also learn caring and compassion by sharing food with others. Through cooking, your children can learn art, science, social science, safety, nutrition, language/reading, math, and social skills. Be aware of your child’s developmental stage, but here are a few guidelines for children of different ages.

At 18-24 months, children are too young to cook but they can spend time in the kitchen with you. Let them get accustomed to routines; give them a soft cloth to clean off the table or high chair.

Two-year-olds have a short attention span but can clean fruits and vegetables, clean the table, tear, break or snap foods and dip foods into dips for family members.

Three-year-olds can work on developing hand muscles so give them tasks to do: wrap foil around food, wrap dough around meat or vegetable fillings, press dough into baking pan, pour from small plastic pitchers, mix with hands or wooden spoon in big containers with small mixtures, shake small jars of food, and spread foods using dull table knives.


Four-year-olds can develop more fine motor skills. They can peel eggs, oranges, corn, etc. They can roll, flatten, and mash foods. They can serve themselves, clear their dishes, and put things in the trash after the meal.

Five-year-olds can measure ingredients, cut soft foods, learn knife safety with the help of a caring adult, turn a grinder, beat with an egg beater and retrieving ingredients from the pantry or refrigerator.

A ten-year-old can do most kitchen tasks with the help of an adult. It is a win-win situation for youth and adults.

Being in the kitchen can teach skills, but it can also be a dangerous place for children.

Keep these tips in mind:

  • Keep sharp objects out of children’s reach. Cover electrical outlets with plastic plug in protectors.
  • Turn the handles of pots and pans on the stove inward so children can not reach them.
  • Be careful not to leave hot food where children can reach it.
  • Keep the temperature of your hot water below 120 degrees by turning down the temperature of the hot water heater.
  • Avoid using tablecloths. Young children will pull on the tablecloth and objects on the table could fall down on the child.
  • Store snack foods away from the stove so the children won’t get burned reaching for them.
  • Keep young children away from the oven when baking.
  • Keep young children in a safe place (high chair, playpen, etc.) while cooking to keep them away from kitchen hazards.
  • Don’t allow appliance cords to dangle or hang over the edge of countertops or table edges to keep children safe from appliances falling on them.
  • Older children tall enough to operate a microwave still need adult supervision.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / mandygodbehear

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15 thoughts on “Kids in the kitchen”

  1. I’m really amazed at how many adults don’t have some kind of kitchen skills.
    My youngest son loves to cook and when he has friends over, he puts some of them in the kitchen to help and they have no idea till he shares what he is doing. Another helpful idea is the food channel. Even DH watches this channel and trys some of the recipes he sees.

    I honestly believe if you have your childern in the kitchen and helping, while you are cooking they will pick up these skills and carry these skills with them for years to come. Very Helpful Post Kim.

  2. I think a lot of kids need to the freedom to try. Sometimes it is easier to just do it yourself but it takes patience and if you really want your kids to learn to cook they have to be able to make a mistake now and then.

  3. I taught each of my boys to cook when they were old enough and tall enough to look DOWN into a pan. Didn’t want them accidently pulling a pan off onto themselves because they couldn’t see in it. Also wanted them to be able to take care of themselves and not rush out to marry someone just to do this kind of thing for them!

  4. Both my dd & ds knew how to cook by the time they entered high school. our grandson was 2 when he started pulling the kitchen stool up to the counter to help my DH cook ( he is 29) & all three are great cooks & still love it.

  5. Knowing how to cook is a very useful skill. I honestly believe if I had learned how to cook alongside my mother that I wouldn’t go out to eat so much. I just started cooking about a year ago and really enjoy baking (my pecan rolls are to die for).

    When I started dating DH 6 years ago I could cook breakfast and hamburger helper. He has helped to teach me, but have taken my schooling into my own hands. I enjoy our time in the kitchen together.

    Being as he’s on the road alot this is 1 thing we do together when he is home.

  6. Cooking and being in the kitchen is a nice family activity. I remember doing dishes at a young age, Lolll standing on a kitchen chair.. But this is how it all starts helping out in one way or another.

    Mom always had us making a cake on Sunday evenings for school lunches on Monday. This was also a great way to start us learning how to mix, measure, and bake.

    • A great book to sneak veggies into foods kids love is Deceptively delicious by Jessica Seinfeld. Every recipe has a veggie or two in it you don’t even notice.

  7. My boys helps me in the kitchen often. They are at the perfect age to learn cooking. They love to help and do things themselves.

    I know that if they learn now, how to cook, then I won’t have to worry about them when they get older. They will be able to cook for themselves. Also I love that we can do something together, and when it comes out good they are so excitied that they did it themselves.

    • All of my children have helped me in the kitchen. My oldest he is now 17 has a gift, he has always been able to taste test something and tell me exactly what is missing even if he doesnt know exactly what is in it. I usually start with them in the kitchen at about age 3.

      My youngest who will be 4 in June helps bake cookies, helps put items in the mixing bowls, etc. I measure the ingredients out and she puts them in the bowl. She helps a lot in the kitchen with anything I can think of for her to do that is not dangerous.

      She also helps with the table, she sets the table at supper and once the left overs are bowled up to go in the refrig she helps put them up as well as any condiments that need to go in there. She even made fudge for gifts at Christmas, we made microwave fudge so she could help.

      I had to teach myself to cook, my x hubby complains now cause when the kids come to his house with items I have made or a big container of stuff on holidays or even leftovers, he says I never cooked for him like that when we were together. But the problem was I didn’t know how to cook anything unless it came from a box because this is the way my mom “cooked.” After having to teach myself I vowed my children would learn to cook

  8. I taught myself to cook when I moved out of my parent’s house and was determined not to let my son grow up without this necessary skill. He’s eleven now, and cooks for us at least once a week. Usually twice.

    He cleans up afterwards too, though not always with the detail I would like.

    Weekends are the best though. We make loaves of sourdough bread by hand then and tortillas and it’s not at all uncommon for one of his friends to come in the back door (where the kitchen is) and volunteer to help. Of course, they realize that whatever they help with, they get to help eat too…

  9. When I got married I had no clue how to cook. My mother would not let us in the kitchen. Well I did a great job because I am a better cook than her and most of everyone else in my family.

    I am usually the cook for most get togethers. I am determined that my kids will know how to cook before they leave my house. My 18 year old is getting to be a great cook and she loves to find recipes online and try them.

    My 3 year old loves to be in the kitchen with me. If it won’t burn her or cut her then I let her help out Canning is a family event here. Everyone has a job and we get it done.

    As soon as I pull out the mason jars my 3 year old is running with her stool “mom what we putting in the jars this time”. I even keep the 10 month old in the kitchen. I pull his highchair by the cabinet and he has his own spoons measuring cups that he play with.

  10. These are great ideas for my almost 3 year old. I cannot get him to eat anything. If anyone could share more tips on getting little ones to participate in making their meals, I would really appreciate it.

    I’m running out of ideas and could really use some help!

  11. My eldest is 8 years old. I really wanted him to help me out in the Kitchen. He doesnt like to.

    I dont want to force him to help me out, but I need to ask him very nicely (it is for his own good in the future) so that he may feel comfortable in the Kitchen.

  12. I have two boys ages 7 and 4 and I’m slowly teaching them how to cook. My oldest makes his own scrambled eggs in the morning using the microwave. They’ve made bread and cookies with me.

    Right now I let them do simple things because they sometimes have a hard time listening to mom and that becomes a safety issue.



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