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Kids a Cookin'

Sandra Procter
Ph.D., R.D., L.D.
Assistant Professor
Extension Specialist

Department of Food, Nutrition, Dietetics and Health
204 Justin Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506

785-532-1678 fax

Cooking with Kids

Children enjoy helping in the kitchen and often are more willing to eat foods they help prepare. Children should be involved in all aspects of cooking, from gathering or purchasing ingredients to “reading” the recipe, to measuring, cutting, stirring and serving the completed food. Kids helping with the preparation of foods promotes independence and develops self-confidence.

Another goal in cooking with kids is to expose children to healthy foods. Children may choose nutritionally sound foods if they understand the role of food in good health. Talk about such facts as “milk makes strong bones” or “fruits provide natural sweetness” while cooking to help kids make the best, most nutritious choices.

It is important to give kitchen tasks that are appropriate for each child’s age so that the job that can be done successfully. Give clear instructions, show how it is done, and let him practice. When children help with food preparation, remind them to wash hands using soap and water before and after handling food or utensils to prepare food. Expect a few spills, be patient and allow extra time for each task.

Each child has his own pace for learning a new skill, but a 2-year-old can:

  • wipe table tops 
  • snap green beans
  • break cauliflower 
  • wash salad greens
  • scrub vegetables 
  • put bread in the toaster

3-year-olds can do additional activities such as:

  • spread soft spreads 
  • place things in the trash
  • pour liquids 
  • mix ingredients
  • pour cereal 
  • clear their place at the table

4-year-olds can do additional activities such as:

  • peel oranges 
  • mash bananas using a fork
  • set the table 
  • peel hard-cooked eggs
  • knead dough 
  • unload the dishwasher

5 to 6-year-olds can do additional activities such as:

  • measure ingredients 
  • use an egg beater
  • break eggs into bowl 
  • cut with a blunt knife

Cooking provides many opportunities for using all the senses - tasting, smelling, touching, seeing and hearing.

Measuring, weighing and following sequential steps interest the child who is most comfortable with math and logic.

The picture cooking method for many recipes is perfect for the child who visualizes things in order to understand and produce them. Cooking in a classroom is a great opportunity for many children who learn best by working with others. The main point of cooking with children is to have an enjoyable time together.

Fun Cookbooks to Enjoy with Children

Disney’s Family Cookbook by Deanna F. Cook and the Experts at FamilyFun magazine. 1996. Hyperion.  ISBN # 0-7868-6112-6. To order or for more information Phone 1-800-759-0190 $24.95 + 5.00 shipping.

Electric Bread for Kids. 1998. Innovative Cooking Enterprises, Inc. ISBN # 1-891705-00-8. To order or for more information call 1-800-541-2733. $29.95.

Kitchen Fun for Kids. 1991. Michael Jacobson, Ph.D., and Laura Hill, R.D. 
ISBN # 0-8050-4503-1.

Healthy Foods for Hungry Kids. Better Homes and Gardens. ISBN # 0-696-01690-7

Product names on this website are for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by the United States Department of Agriculture or the Family Nutrition Program of any product or service.