Children learn by engaging all of their senses. Cooking involves listening, looking, touching, smelling and finally tasting. Spark their curiosity and get them more familiar with different foods by preparing meals together.
Teaching children to cook helps them to develop life skills and healthy eating habits. Cooking also gives children an opportunity to use their skills in reading, maths and science, concentration, problem solving and coordination. By being involved in food preparation, children can become more comfortable with trying and eating new foods. It can also be a great way to spend quality time bonding with your children.
Be safe and clean
Cooking is lots of fun, but it also has some dangers. Teach children to be aware of safety hazards and make sure they are always supervised in the kitchen. Take special care with:
- Sharp equipment like knives, peelers, and graters
- Electrical equipment like mixers and blenders
- Hot stoves, ovens, and liquids
- Slip and trip hazards like spilled liquids and toys
Teach your children to wash their hands, use clean equipment, wash fruit and vegetables, and clean up the workspace. Being food-safe is also important to prevent getting sick, especially as children get older and take on more food preparation responsibilities.
Kids in the kitchen
Choose activities that you feel are safe and appropriate for your child. These suggestions can help you get started.
Toddlers and pre-schoolers can help with:
- Washing fruits and vegetables
- Tearing salad leaves
- Stirring ingredients (avoid hot ingredients)
- Mashing with a fork or potato masher
- Sprinkling flour, seeds, and herbs
School-aged children can help with the above activities, and:
- Getting out ingredients from the fridge and cupboard
- Weighing and measuring with cup measures
- Mixing and stirring
- Using cookie cutters
- Using a sieve
- Kneading dough
- Rolling meatballs and patties
- Spreading with a butter knife
- Rolling doughs
- Cracking eggs
- Cutting soft foods with a sturdy plastic knife or child-safe knife with supervision
Learning knife skills
When your child is learning to cut with a knife, show them how to form their hand into a claw to keep their fingertips out of the way.
From around 8 years of age, children can also be:
- Cutting herbs with scissors
- Grating vegetables and cheeses
- Using whisks and egg beaters
- Greasing and lining tins and trays
- Peeling hard boiled eggs, cracking eggs and separating whites and yolk
- Setting the table
- Reading a recipe
- Planning a family meal including looking at cook books
- Helping to find items at the supermarket
As children reach high school, they can be:
- Cutting with a small paring knife
- Making meals themselves
- Working independently in the kitchen
As you cook with your kids, talk about the interesting and unique things about different foods – colours, textures, smells, and sounds. This can encourage food exploration and help kids feel more interested in the cooking process.
Safety and supervision is always the priority, but remember to give your child the chance to build confidence and independence with their tasks. Introduce new activities that are appropriate for their abilities, and take a calm, encouraging approach. Mess and mistakes are part of the learning process!