While you’re staying at home with the whole family, you might want to invite your kids into the kitchen to help with food preparation and cleanup duties. But what kitchen activities are suitable for each age group? Read on for our age-by-age breakdown of all the kitchen and meal-prep tasks your kids can participate in right now.
Why You Should Get Kids of All Ages Involved
Although it might try your patience — there will be spills! — there are plenty of great reasons to get your kids cooking with you. Participating in kitchen activities can give children a boost of self-confidence and nutritional know-how. Plus, following a recipe can help with reading comprehension and math skills.
When kids get to spend more time working with food and even choosing ingredients at the grocery store with you, they’ll be better prepared to make healthier eating choices. And, in spite of the eventual kitchen messes and cooking mistakes, the extra family bonding time will be priceless.
Cooking is an important life skill, and kids of all ability levels can participate in some way. Food Network contributor Julie Negrin, says, “The main reason I love teaching kids how to cook is that it’s possible to include every single child, regardless of age, special needs or academic abilities. Since cooking is a tactile activity that you can break down into dozens of tasks, each child can take on easy or challenging ones.”
Teaching Tips for Kids in the Kitchen
If kitchen tasks are completely new to your child, start them off with the safest and simplest activities. Focus on trying to get them interested in what’s going on. When introducing a new task, show your child what to do, then allow them to try it on their own. “Only step in to help if they are truly struggling,” Negrin advises.
Listen to your little one and observe how they interact with different tools and tasks. You’ll see how your child’s dexterity, maturity, and level of interest serve them in a kitchen setting. Only advance onto the next phase when you both feel comfortable so that neither of you gets overwhelmed.
While you work with your kids in the kitchen, make sure to talk about what techniques you’re using and how they contribute to the final result. The National Institutes of Health also suggests initiating conversations about nutrition and health while handling ingredients together.
What Kids of Different Ages Can Do in the Kitchen
Age-related kitchen tasks are a great starting point when deciding how to get your little one involved. But, of course, every child is different — some will be ready for new tasks more quickly than others. Maybe you’ll discover a little chef-in-training or star baker in the family!
There’s a lot that toddlers can do, but they will need to be monitored by an adult in the kitchen. Give them plenty of space to work and opt for large bowls and utensils since they are still developing fine motor skills.
Children aged 2 and up can:
- Tear fresh herbs, lettuce, and other leafy greens into smaller pieces
- Break up cauliflower and broccoli into smaller chunks
- Wash fresh produce (with assistance reaching the sink)
- Dry washed fruits and veggies with a kitchen towel
- Dry leafy greens in a salad spinner (you’ll have the driest salad ever!)
- Wipe off work surfaces and place mats
- Juice lemons, limes, and oranges using a manual citrus squeezer, juicer, or reamer
- Scoop seeds out of squashes or tomatoes, and cooked potatoes out of their skins
- Transport ingredients from one spot to another
At age 3, children will still need constant adult supervision, especially as they start handling liquids. But this can be a fun time to introduce your little ones to new tactile techniques like kneading, spreading, and sprinkling while you’re preparing family meals and snacks together.
Children aged 3 and up can:
- Use a salt shaker and pepper grinder
- Sprinkle seasonings and herbs onto meats and vegetables
- Stir liquid ingredients, batters, and sauces using a spoon or whisk
- Pour liquids and batters from one container to another
- Stir, knead, roll, and shape doughs using their hands, a rolling pin, and pastry cutters
- Brush liquids and glazes onto meat, veggies, or pastry using a pastry brush
- Apply soft spreads like nut butter, fruit preserves, or cream cheese using a butter knife
- Collect and dispose of kitchen waste
Kids at 4, 5, and 6
As children enter kindergarten and grade school, they tend to exhibit differences in fine motor skills and maturity levels. Your little one may still work on mastering the previous activities, or they might be ready to take on a few more tasks and techniques.
Children aged 4, 5, 6, and up can:
- Mash potatoes using a masher
- Mash bananas, avocados, and cooked beans using a fork
- Cut up fresh herbs, leafy greens, and green onions using child-safe scissors
- Peel oranges and clementines, bananas, and hard-boiled eggs
- Measure out ingredients
- Scrape and rinse off plates and bowls
Kids at 7, 8, and 9
By these ages, children often have the dexterity and awareness required to take on more sophisticated kitchen tasks. When using sharp objects like knives and graters, make sure they understand kitchen safety. Adult supervision will also be important during this stage.
Children aged 7, 8, 9, and up can:
- Chop, slice, and dice vegetables and fruits
- Prepare skewers
- Operate tools like pizza cutters and can openers
- Peel potatoes, mangoes, and other fruits and veggies
- Use a grater to grate cheese or zest citrus fruits
- Rinse and drain beans, grains, tofu, and other smaller food items in a colander
- Pour liquids and batters into smaller containers like measuring spoons and muffin cups
- Grease baking sheets, pans, and casserole dishes
- Package up leftovers
- Garnish finished meals and decorate cakes and cookies
- Put away clean dishes and utensils
Kids Aged 10 and Up
Once your child has proven to be skilled at all of the previous tasks, they may be ready for more advanced activities. At this stage, it’s crucial to discuss kitchen safety related to sharp tools, raw foods, appliances, and heat sources.
Children aged 10 and up can:
- Work at the stove
- Operate an electric mixer
- Move things in and out of the oven
- Microwave ingredients and leftovers
- Use a chef’s knife
- Follow complete recipes
- Wash and dry dishes by hand
- Load and unload the dishwasher
Keep These Perfectly Kid-Friendly Snacks in the Kitchen
Once your kiddos learn their way around the kitchen, they’ll start to figure out where you keep all the good snacks. Make sure you have a stash of Perfect Bar Snack Size in the fridge! With up to six grams of protein and a yummy cookie dough texture, they’ll make you the ultimate snacktime hero.
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