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Teaching Your Child To Help In The Kitchen

Updated on October 28, 2015

Children are naturally curious about everything around them. At some point, they will show an interest in helping in the kitchen. There are several common questions that get asked about children and the kitchen. At what age should they be allowed to do what? Should you start teaching them at a particular age? Should i let them experiment and try things out for themselves, or should I only let them use recipes? What if my child is not interested in cooking?

All of this brings us back to the basic question of, "How do you teach your child(ren) to cook?"

When Do I Start Teaching Them To Cook?

What age is the right age to have your child start to help you in the kitchen? This would firstly and most importantly depend upon the child. When they start to show an interest in what is going on in the kitchen is the best time to start teaching them how to do things. 

What you should teach them first would depend on their age and/or abilities. For instance, a toddler who wants to help with dinner can be shown how to rinse the fruits and vegetables for the meal. A grade school child can easily be taught to butter the toast, or make a sandwich. And a teenager has the capabilities to learn how to plan a meal and cook it on their own.

But That Knife is SHARP!

Okay, that is great, but when do I start teaching them to cut up the fruit and vegetables?

Again, I have to say that YOU know your child's capabilities best, and you should do it when they are ready to learn it.

That was a nice non-answer, wasn't it?!

it really does depend upon the child and the task you want to teach them to do. Learning how to peel the apples they always want is something that can be done at a fairly young age. Just make sure to ALWAYS provide supervision when your child is using anything with a sharp edge. Even the safest peeler can peel skin off your finger, and that accidental experience can be quite frightening and a bit painful. It is something we all hope they will never do, but if it happens, you should be there to care for and comfort them. The lesson itself will keep it from happening again!

Using a paring knife is something that can be done at an earlier age than say a carving knife, as it fits the size of a child's hands much better. This will afford them better control. What they are cutting up will make a huge difference too. Cutting hard carrots is something that a younger or smaller child may not have the strength (or the leverage) to be able to do. On the other hand, my youngest child learned to use a paring knife to cut a kiwi in half at the age of 5 years old. It led to his very first recipe creation! His favorite treat to this day is what he calls a Kiwi Cup, which is nothing more than a kiwi cut in half and dug into with a spoon!

And That Stove is HOT!

While we are at it, at what age should I teach them to cook on the stove?

Okay, I'm starting to think we should just call this the mantra for this hub! I again will say that YOU know what your child is capable of, and for each child this will be a different age.

When you are considering the idea of teaching your child how to cook on the stove, there are certain things to look for to see if they are ready. They should be able to hold still and not bounce for the length of time they are going to be at the stove. This is very important! When they are young and still very bouncy, as all young children are, the stove with it's hot burners, and boiling liquids is a horribly dangerous place for them to be.

They should also be capable of following simple directions. That sounds fairly basic, but there is a difference between them needing to be told a second and third time, and understanding you and doing it the first time. My children need to be told repeatedly to clean their room and put their shoes away, but they also know the importance of paying attention and following directions immediately when they are in the kitchen.

A Great Big Experiment!

Cooking is all just one great big experiment, and it is in getting messy and trying things out that we learn what does and does not work. Let your kids try out combining different ingredients. You may want to make suggestions, or let them just go for it on their own. 

I remember when my oldest was just starting in the kitchen.. salt went into everything! Thankfully she outgrew that!

It is important at this point to be supportive no matter what their creation tastes like!

Soon enough, they will learn what flavors go together, and which ones should never be on the same plate!

My Child Does NOT Want To Cook

That's okay.

Seriously, in their own time they will want to explore creating and cooking their own food.

They may enjoy gardening. This can be extended into the kitchen as they pick their first produce and learn to prepare it.

Another tactic to get them into the kitchen is to do science experiments with food! Yup, maybe it is time to find out if vinegar and baking soda really do bubble up and produce gas. 

Perhaps your child is interested in math, and you can start out with fractions on the measuring cup, and converting the size of recipes!

Tortilla, I Mean.. Wrapping It Up

Cooking is something to be enjoyed and have fun with. It is all about creation, invention, and experimentation! Follow your own instincts and your child's lead, and let the kitchen be a place that is always full of laughter and happiness!

Happy Cooking!

Share Your Tips For Kids and Cooking!

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    • Sparkle Chi profile image

      Cate 7 years ago from Chandler, AZ

      It is always fantastic to be able to spend time with our children, and teach them something that we enjoy! Thanks for coming by and leaving a comment!

    • anglnwu profile image

      anglnwu 7 years ago

      The concept--one step and another--that's how my little daughter learns too. First, just grinding the pepper, something she finds fascinating and then throwing in a pinch of salt. Today, she baked a cake for Father's day. Thanks for the hub--it's nice when you can enjoy quality time with your kids, when they learn to cook from you.