No matter the age, kids can start to build their culinary skills.
Being the mom of multiple children, I know how terrifying it can be to let kids help you cook. But the benefits to cooking with kids are totally worth the effort!
Children are able to build so many skills in the kitchen and they are not all directly cooking related. Even better, kids who cook are much more willing to eat so involving your children in food prep is a great step to helping them become world food explorers.
What age can a child start cooking?
Children can start cooking much sooner than you think. As long as they can sit up by themselves and hold something you can have them help you. Some of my friends have their children start cooking with them when they can stand on a chair unassisted.
Obviously the younger the child is, the more assistance they will need to do each task. But even really little ones can help “cut” soft foods with something as simple as a butter knife.
Watch my video below for more ideas on tools for little kids to use to help with cutting foods.
If your child is older, try not to help them too much. Even if they are just starting out, constantly correcting or critiquing what they are doing might create disgruntled feelings. When in doubt, I would ere on the side of not saying anything unless they will cause an injury to themselves.
IMPORTANT: KNOW YOUR INDIVIDUAL CHILD’S SKILL LEVEL
Younger children can successfully help in the kitchen but they will need simple tasks and they may lose interest quickly. That’s okay!
Older children may be bored if the tasks are too simple. Knowing your children’s skill level will help keep them interested in what’s going on.
I’m sharing some general guidelines on what kids can do by age group, but remember you know your children best, so assign the tasks that you feel confident they can handle.
Some older children will not be mature enough to handle some tasks while some younger children will be able to handle those same tasks. Trust your gut and choose skills you know your child can safely accomplish.
Have a picky eater?
What can kids help with when cooking?
Giving kids tasks that are appropriate for their age helps reduce the stress (and mess!) for both you and your child.
Also important to remember is that some children may need more guidance with preforming the tasks. For some children they may catch on quickly while others may need repeated visual and physical help to complete their tasks.
Note: Older children can also do tasks for any group younger than they are.
Tips for working with kids up to 3 years old
To be most successful with small children, I have found that having them sit or kneel on chairs or a bench at the kitchen table works best. A large island can also work well if you have one.
Also, with children in this age group, they will most likely need assistance in accomplishing any of these tasks. For example, you can hold the measuring cup and assist them in scooping flour into it or you may need to hold the bowl while they stir or mash ingredients.
Cooking skills for ages 18 months to 5 years old
- measuring wet or dry ingredients
- stirring ingredients in a bowl
- rinsing fruits or vegetables
- pouring liquid ingredients
- mashing ingredients like bananas, potatoes, or cooked vegetables
- rolling out dough with a rolling pin or patting dough down with their hands
- using cookie cutters
- cutting soft fruits with a butter knife or plastic knife
- pick herbs off stems
- use kid safe scissors to cut herbs or soft ingredients like tortillas
- pick stems from fruits like grapes
Tips for working with kids under 10 years old
Children in this age group will most likely need supervision but very little assistance while doing their task. The older end of this age group may be able to do many of these tasks without any real supervision.
Cooking skills for ages 6 to 10
- whisk eggs, whipped cream, or batters
- peel with a vegetable peeler
- crack eggs
- use a can opener
- use a box grater
- juice citrus fruits
- shuck corn
- read a recipe
- use a hand crank pasta machine
- use a paring knife or other small knife
- start and stop timers
- use thermometers
- scramble eggs
- make grilled cheese
- flip pancakes
- knead dough
Tips for working with kids over 11 years old
This is the age group where kids really become a big help in the kitchen. They are able to accomplish tasks on their own and as they gain more confidence can even make recipes completely on their own.
It’s a great age for honing their cooking skills, and building on these skills is a great confidence booster at a time when self confidence can suffer as they progress through puberty.
Ages 11 & up
- help plan with meal planning
- use large knives
- use and clean most kitchen appliances like blender, stand mixer, food processor, waffle maker
- use the stove top or oven
- follow a recipe on their own
- make breads and muffins
- cook meats on a grill or stove top