Cooking with Kids

Activities Based on Age

Written By Rachel Davidson-Evans, BASc

Reviewed by Atheana Brown RD

Starting to cook with your children is such a rewarding experience, but where do you start? Today on the blog we will be discussing some age-appropriate cooking tasks to give you some inspiration!

There are so many benefits to cooking with your children. Teaching them how to cook not only allows them to learn an important life skill but it can also be a great way to express their creativity, increase their confidence, strengthen language, math, and reading development, encourage family bonding, and allows them to discover their love for food! Notice this weeks picture? That is me and my dad cooking up a storm featured in this weeks post. Cute right? I am so grateful for my dad making me his little chef and including me in the kitchen ever since I can remember. I have learned so much from his culinary skills and have kept my love for cooking to this day! Now- back to the blog we go!

Cooking with Kids

When getting your child started in the kitchen, age-appropriate tasks are essential. It is important to keep in mind that every child is unique and these lists are to be used as a guide. Attention spans and interests may vary- and that is okay! Be sure to monitor and increase or decrease the difficulty of these tasks and progress accordingly. Regardless of age, it is important to establish that kitchens can be dangerous and safety is always the #1 priority. Teach your child about food safety and hygiene including washing hands before starting and after touching touch food. Let them know about the dangers and the locations of  sharp knives, hot stoves, and dangerous gadgets. Keep cleaning products, knives, sharp and heavy tools, and hot foods, liquids, and handles away from reach. With new gadgets, always supervise during teachings and first attempts. Stay patient, get messy, have fun, and stay safe! 

Ready to get cooking with your kids? This list of tasks by age range and stage can help get you started!

Cooking with Kids

Babies-1 Year:

  • Observe! (+ speak to them about what you are doing)
  • Smell, touch, and taste age-appropriate foods
  • Play with safe tools and foods (whole fruits, mixing bowls, etc)

2-3 Years:

  • All activities listed in previous sections*
  • Help find ingredients in the kitchen
  • Smell and touch ingredients 
  • Describe the shape, texture, and colour of foods
  • Wash fruits and vegetables
  • Stir ingredients (no hot temperatures please!)
  • Add/pour ingredients into bowls
  • Sprinkle herbs and spices
  • Mash ingredients 
  • Fill and pour measuring spoons and cups
  • Arrange doughs on baking sheets
  • Set a timer
  • Tear lettuce for salads
  • Place baking cups in muffin trays
  • Add sprinkles to baked goods
  • Brush egg wash and/or oil
  • Knead dough
  • Assemble simple foods like sandwiches
  • Place food waste in compost bins
  • Press “start” buttons on kitchen equipment

4-6 Years:

  • All activities listed in previous sections*
  • Count and measure ingredients
  • Stir and fold dry and wet ingredients
  • Roll and shape doughs
  • Batter and flour surfaces and foods
  • Dry lettuce and vegetables in salad spinner
  • Use a sieve (watch out for water messes!)
  • Read or sound out recipe steps and numbers out loud
  • Pick herbs off of stems
  • Crack eggs
  • Beat eggs
  • Peel cooled boiled eggs
  • Grease baking pans (with assistance)
  • Slice soft foods with a plastic knife (cooked or soft veggies, fruits, soft cheeses, tofu)
  • Juice fruits
  • Assemble foods
  • Spread ingredients (condiments, jam, icing, butter, etcetera)
  • Set the table
  • Have a cooking/baking play date

Cooking with Kids

7-9 Years:

  • All activities listed in previous sections*
  • Peel vegetables 
  • Grate vegetables, fruits, cheeses with a grater
  • Drain and rinse canned goods
  • Toss salad ingredients with dressing
  • Use a can opener
  • Toast bread
  • Measure with scales and cups/spoons
  • Assemble wraps, pizzas, salads, and sandwiches
  • Form mixtures into burger patties, meatballs
  • Dice and mince soft foods using a sharper knife (butterknife, small pairing knife, etcetera) 
  • Make grocery list
  • Unload and organize groceries
  • Make simple lunches for school
  • Wash and put away dishes
  • Mix cereal and milk for a simple breakfast or snack
  • Invent a dish (smoothie recipe, fun sandwich, fruit salad, etcetera)
  • Write down their invented dish

10-12 Years:

  • All activities listed in previous sections*
  • Use a hand mixer and/or stand mixer
  • Use scissors
  • Use a pizza cutter
  • Skewer proteins and vegetables
  • Pound and tenderize meat
  • Scoop batter into baking cups
  • Use a microwave (with assistance)
  • Preheat and use oven (with assistance)
  • Cooking simple recipes (while supervised) at the stovetop (grilled cheese, soup, pancakes, etcetera)
  • Make and pack their school lunches
  • Assemble a fruit and vegetable platter
  • Use a blender
  • Put away leftovers
  • Learn about types of foods (vegetables, fruits, proteins, etcetera)
Cooking with Kids

12+ Years:

  • All activities listed in previous sections*
  • Learn basic cleaning skills (sweep and mop floors, sort recycling, taking out trash/recycling/compost, load, run, and empty dishwasher)
  • Cook recipes in the oven and use oven mitts to remove food from ovens
  • Cook recipes on the stove top (stir, flip, pour, etcetera)
  • Use the microwave on their own
  • Bake on their own
  • Use sharp knives and utensils
  • Learn to use various kitchen tools and gadgets independently (food processor, blender, hand mixer, mandolin waffle maker, garlic press, coffee maker, kettle, etcetera)
  • Learn to BBQ
  • Look for fun recipes like ice cream using sandwich bags + salt 
  • Have cooking/baking competitions with friends and family
  • Make one dinner or more a week where they are the head chef (if they feel inspired)

And that concludes the list for cooking tasks for children by age and stage! I hope this list has helped inspire you with some tasks to include when getting your littles started in the kitchen. It might be messy, but it is worth it! Remember- make safety a priority, monitor their progress, and have fun! Oh- and snap some pictures to look back on. Happy cooking!

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