3 Tips for Cooking with Kids

A great way to get kids to taste and enjoy new foods is to involve them in hands-on food preparation. Basic cooking also helps kids develop their fine motor skills and social skills as they share, take turns, and create a finished product with the help of everyone involved. It is our hope that you will try including kids in hands-on preparation in the kitchen to foster a healthy relationship with food.


As you work with kids in the kitchen, it helps to maintain a positive attitude and to keep these 3 tips in mind:


1. Enjoy watching them learn. Cooking allows kids to experiment, question new things, follow a sequence of events, and begin to build basic concepts.


2. Enjoy their excitement, and show that you value their help. Plan your time wisely. Cooking may take more time with kids. Think about ways to use your time wisely. For instance, perform adult-only steps the night before. Have kids help you with the final steps the next day.


3. Don’t worry about the mess. There are bound to be some messes as you get started. Over time you will develop a system and learn which tasks children are able to do well. Kids can also help you clean up!


As a parent or caregiver, you play a crucial role in helping children get the nourishment they need to grow and thrive. When you work with children on food-related activities, you can support healthy eating habits that will stick with them for life.


Here are age appropriate ideas for kids to develop a love of healthy foods by letting them help in the kitchen:


Kids aged two and younger can:

• Play with plastic measuring cups, spoons, containers, or a bowl of water and a whisk

• Learn to say names and colors of foods being used

• Smell foods and, depending on the food, taste small amounts


Let three-year-olds try to:

• Rinse and scrub fresh produce

• Tear, snap, or break foods

• Use a cookie cutter to cut shapes in dough

• Pluck fruits or leaves from stems

• Dip foods into dips

• Arrange foods on a plate

• Help stir ingredients together in a bowl


Let four-year-olds try to:

• Measure ingredients

• Cut with a plastic or dull butter knife

• Squeeze juice from fruits

• Shake small containers, such as jars or zip-top bags, to mix ingredients


Let five-year-olds try to:

• Help grate cheeses and vegetables

• Crack and beat eggs

• Peel oranges


Kids can also help:

• Set and clear the table

• Clean up

• Get out ingredients and equipment and put them away


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About the author

Nicole Aucoin, MS, RD, LD/N

Founder, Healthy Steps Nutrition
Home of CrossFit HSN & HSN Mentoring

Author of Nourish & Healthy Kids Cookbook

Author of The Basics of Nutrition Coaching Course, CrossFit Preferred Nutrition Course

CrossFit Level 2 Trainer