Teaching children to cook is definitely a fun way to bond, but it also offers many practical benefits to kids such as improving reading skills, providing a self-esteem boost when they learn a new skill, teaching basic safety and kitchen awareness as well as food and health issues. Cooking can be a pleasure for children of all ages so start them young and with any luck they’ll develop a lifelong love of the kitchen. Use your own judgement to choose tasks you think are suitable for your child.
Here is a breakdown of some age-appropriate kitchen tasks:
2-5 years old – Preschoolers can begin with the basic skills they will need for years in the kitchen. Keep in mind that attention spans are short so small tasks are best. For example, stirring batter in bowls, squeezing lemons, picking leaves off fresh herb stems, mashing potatoes, using cookie or biscuit cutters, and measuring liquid and dry ingredients.
6-8 years old – As kids learn to read, the perfect activity is to read the cookbooks and follow the recipes. Fine motor skills are also developed so they can take on more detailed work, like using measuring spoons, grating, and peeling. Some of the other things you can have them help you with is frosting cupcakes, whisking eggs, boiling pasta, using a microplane zester, or making easy dishes like grilled cheese sandwiches.
9-12-years old – Preteens should be able to read labels, follow recipes, and prepare many parts of a simple dish themselves. They should feel comfortable in the kitchen and hopefully have an interest in actually learning and developing new skills. You’ll have to decide if they are mature enough to work at the stove, but you can start with easy toaster oven type of recipes if not. This age group can use a pizza cutter and can opener, putting away leftovers, rinsing dishes and loading the dishwasher, pounding chicken, skewering food, making sandwiches and wraps, and chopping most foods.
13+ years old – This age group should be able to work fairly on their own in the kitchen. Make sure they have learned basic kitchen and knife skills and have moved on up in skill level before they are left to make meals (even under supervision) by themselves completely. Rules still apply, especially basic safety – hand washing, food handling and prep, and using caution around the oven. They should be able to use all kitchen appliances, read and follow family favorite recipes, marinating and grilling meat, and learning about meal planning and prep work.
Children will learn many things through cooking alongside you, but the greatest lessons they can learn is to love preparing delicious and healthy foods, connection with our family, and the things we find important.
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