By Raising Children Network
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In most households, the kitchen is where the action is. Sharing your kitchen with your children encourages their interest in cooking. It’s also a fun way to encourage lifelong healthy eating habits.

Benefits of cooking with kids

There are all sorts of things that your child can learn while helping you to cook, including:

  • new words (whisk, peel, egg beater and grater)
  • mathematical concepts (half, one teaspoon, 30 minutes)
  • an appreciation for doing things step by step
  • maybe even some patience, while waiting for that cake to rise!

Cooking with kids gives you the chance to introduce them to a range of fresh, healthy foods. It’s also how you can turn a chore into a way to spend time with your children.

Cooking with toddlers

Almost everything that involves a toddler involves time and patience. This means it’s a good idea to save cooking together for those days when you have plenty to spare.

At this age, your child will mostly be watching and learning, but toddlers can help with things like greasing the muffin tin and handing over utensils. Simple recipes such as pita bread pizza, fruit salad and green salad won’t drag things out too long. They can also provide lots of interest during both preparation and eating.

Many tasks are still difficult for toddlers to manage alone. So it can be a good idea to focus on thanking your toddler for helping, rather than trying to teach your child to do something perfectly.

Cooking with preschoolers

With preschoolers, you can talk about which foods are healthy and why. This is also a good age to introduce recipes that involve ‘building’. This could include layering toppings on a pizza base or spooning yoghurt, cereal and fruit into a glass to make a tasty and healthy dessert.

You can try making some of the following:

  • Muffins: add raisins, chopped apples, mashed banana, cooked pumpkin or grated carrot.
  • Fruit and yoghurt smoothies: shake them in a jar if you don’t have a blender or want to keep this fascinating toy hidden from your child for a bit longer.
  • Mashed potatoes: let your child have a go with the masher, and jazz up the spuds with yoghurt and herbs or another vegetable such as celeriac.
  • Biscuits: your child can cut out shapes or put spoonfuls of mixture onto the baking tray.

Preschool children can help set the table, serve food and clean up. Cooking also helps preschoolers learn basics about measuring, counting and washing vegetables and fruit, as well as new words.

Cooking with school-age children

Once at school, your child will probably love helping in the kitchen and making menu suggestions.

You can now try more complex creations, such as:

  • pancakes
  • soup
  • fried rice
  • biscuits – let your child roll out the dough, cut out shapes and decorate
  • gnocchi and pasta – with or without a pasta machine 
  • cakes.

Your child can also help do the dishes and clean the table now.

This is also a good age to involve your child in choosing fruit and vegetables. You can teach your child about what’s in season and which vegetables look fresh. Let your child pick out the fruit and vegetables for the next few meals.

Kitchens are dangerous places – for kids of all ages – so certain ground rules need to be followed. Knives, electrical appliances and hot stoves are all hazards. So too is carrying a pot of hot water to the sink when there’s a small person nearby. You can use the kitchen environment to teach your child about safety.
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  • Last Updated 12-12-2009
  • Last Reviewed 12-10-2009