15 answers

Teaching Kids to Cook

When have you begun to teach your school age children how to prepare and cook food?

My girls know how to prepare food that requires no cooking (cereal, sandwiches, washing fruit/veggies, etc.) and have learned how to use the toaster. They have occasionally helped me at the stove but not too often. They have also helped me put ingredients in bowls to stir and in the food processor/blender and pushed the buttons. Mostly the things they haven't been taught how to do are working at the stove consistently, handling raw meat, using a knife, using the oven (beyond pushing the buttons to turn it on), or operating the microwave (in our new house it is directly above the stove so it isn't in a very user friendly location for teaching.)

I want my children to grow up being comfortable in the kitchen and have a healthy understanding of food preparation/choices. Also, I would love to have this time with them to be another connecting point in our relationship that we don't always have in our busy daily lives. Since I can be quite a worrier, I've hesitated in opening up the kitchen fully for them to learn everything (with adult supervision of course!). They are so eager to learn everything and I want to provide opportunities when they are ready for them not based on my tend to worry about the "what might happen if...."

Thanks for any encouraging replies. :)

What can I do next?

Featured Answers

I started at TWO.....helping put things in bowls, etc. I taught pre-school to 3 & 4 year olds and we cooked EVERY day except field trips days. These kids LOVED it and 10 years later are healthy ...NOT overweight and have a passion for good health and nutrition. My six year old picks out berries, etc at the store. We smell EVERY spice, herb, etc to develop sense of smell, too. We talk about HOW they grow, WHERE they grow, etc. She understands WHY we need certain foods ....skin, muscles, eyes, brain, etc. If you don't know......do some homework and learn WITH them. It's worth EVERY second you put into it!

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I started at TWO.....helping put things in bowls, etc. I taught pre-school to 3 & 4 year olds and we cooked EVERY day except field trips days. These kids LOVED it and 10 years later are healthy ...NOT overweight and have a passion for good health and nutrition. My six year old picks out berries, etc at the store. We smell EVERY spice, herb, etc to develop sense of smell, too. We talk about HOW they grow, WHERE they grow, etc. She understands WHY we need certain foods ....skin, muscles, eyes, brain, etc. If you don't know......do some homework and learn WITH them. It's worth EVERY second you put into it!

My son loves the kitchen. He's 5. He has helped prepare most meals, no matter who is cooking. Him and his grandfather love to cook together whether it be breakfast with pancakes, soups for lunch or dinner on the grill. We bake cookies and cakes together.
I started when he was REALLY young. He use to not cry if he was watching me make his food, his bottle and baby cereal. So I held him and made them. Since then, there has never been a time that I haven't prevent him from helping, trying his own thing with age limitations and such. He puts things into the oven now but does not take them out. Depending on whats on the stove he can put things on the stove, but again not take them off. He LOVES to eat healthy foods, and has an amazing diet. I think the cooking helps!
Continue to have them help as you feel they are capable and you are comfortable! Best of Luck!

Basically I first taught the how to measure.. When they could recognise the diference between T. and t. ( for teaspoon ) and 1/2 and 1.4 cup, things like that... I taught them the proper names of all appliances, and tools,, ( I.E. toaster vs. toaster oven, convection oven, ladel, spatula, things like that,, then bought them each a cake mix and let 'em go. When they show an interest is when I started teaching them.. Now my two older kids have dinner night when they each have a turn making dinner, ( no, not fish sticks and fries,, usually a pot roast dinner w/ homemade rolls or something,,) and we also have an 8 yr. old special needs who'se showing an interest in cooking.. Since she's VERY delayed we have her help out and go through the steps with her,, but she knows the difference between a wire wisk, and a mixing spoon, a cooking sheet, a bundt pan, etc... and does very well though she does not know how to read.. she still remembers how much of what to put into a cake mix, or she can do pancakes from start to finish.. Basically continue what you are doing by allowing them to help in the kitchen.. then move them on to more challenging things as long as they understand the danget behind it all and stay alert to it.. ( like no fingers in the mixing bowl while the mixer is going, no metal in the microwave, etc.
Good luck and I hope this all helps.

Look for the Spatulata Cookbook. We bought it through Scholastic. Written by two sisters and has many ways to cook/prepare recipes. You should trust your own instincts on safety issues as to when they can cook 'on their own'. Be sure to teach them knife safety, so they do not get into your circle of safety or you get into their's (too close when someone is using a knife) - it is one of the skills I teach in Girl Scouting.

My middle grandson was cooking full meals at age three. He makes perfect mashed potatoes. I even let him put in the salt and pepper. He understands the stove and oven were hot. He never burnt his self. He does very well so much so he wanted an easy bake oven for Christmas but my son refused to get him one because they are all pink. Well he got one and baked like crazy.
I also let him make his own frosting for decorating cookies. His mother says we are making a mess and I say we are making a memory. She has said well my mom wouldn't let him do that. I told her she is missing out on a lot. Besides what's a little bit of powdered sugar on the floor. It all washes up.
I forgot to say we use a veggie peeler a lot. Also small knifes for small hands and he must cut away from him self incase things get out of hand.

Good morning! I love this topic! My daughter is 12 and cooked dinner last week with only minimal supervision. When I first started teaching her, I gathered all the ingredients and put them in separate bowls. We read the recipe together and she put the pre-measured ingredients in as the recipe dictated. Betty Crocker also has a Junior cookbook that is AWESOME! It takes time and patience, but it is worth it. They are never too young to help. You will know when the time is right for them to learn to cut, peel, etc. Every child is different. I also ask her to taste things as they cook and make a decision on if it needs more salt, pepper, etc. It helps them to think and learn to add as they see fit. MOST OF ALL - HAVE FUN!!!!

Hi S.,

There is a wonderful meal assembly kitchen on Polaris parkway called Entree Vous. You can bring your 7year old and 6.5 year old in and they can help prepare as many meals as you like. They will be exposed to all fresh ingredients and the meals are great and truly homemade. Very cost effective also. And the staff cleans up after you. No messy kitchen!!! Their number is ###-###-####.
Hope this helps.

My children are now 18, 11, and 10. Most people was shock when they found out that he (the 18) was able to make a cake without my help. Yes my kids are in the kitchen helping. They do not cook a meal but they have the understanding of the do's and the do not's of the kitchen. I can say that it help them with math when it came down to measurements... This is a wonderful life skill.

Hello! My son is 8 (almost 9) and he LOVES to cook. As long as I can remember, he has been in the kitchen with me. We started the same way as you...adding ingredients, stirring stuff in a bowl, pushing buttons, etc. As he got older and could show me he could listen and obey kitchen safety rules, we started to increase what we allowed him to do. First stirring on the stove or cutting something with a knife. We always supervised him. Right now, he independently cooks scrambled eggs, grilled cheese, and he is attempting pancakes. Of course, we always supervise in case he needs help or we notice a danger but for the most part he does really well. I think it is great that you are letting your kids help out. You know them best so as long as they are safe and you feel they are ready for it, teach them some new stuff. They don't have to do everything all at once so just start with a couple of new things and see how it goes. Trust your judgment. Good luck!

It sounds like you've done a great job so far! I know that our family does a lot of connecting in the kitchen in the preparation of food and then sharing a meal together. It's great that you are starting them on this at a young age!

One thing I notice is that if you teach kids the proper way to do things....even potentially dangerous stuff, they are less likely to have an accident. Using knives is serious stuff and a lot of accidents happen out of their curiosity. Also, if you shop around, you can sometimes find "kid knives" that are not sharp like regular ones. They are good for cutting sandwiches, etc. Supervise them with the more dangerous things and then let them do what they can with the rest.

Happy cooking!

My 6 year old son has been in the kitchen since he was a toddler. At 18 months, he made his first PB&J sandwich. He used a plastic knife from around age 18 months to 2 years old. Starting around age 2 he was using a tableknife. We showed him how to handle and use a small paring knife when he turned 4. We teach safety as we go and reinforce it constantly. He can be a bit reckless (like all young boys) outside the kitchen, but he's >very< careful in the kitchen. Starting when he was about 5.5 we started letting help with the hot stuff.... stirring a pot of whatever on the stove, dumping in ingredients, taking food out of the microwave, etc. He hasn't taken stuff out/in of a hot oven yet simply because he's not very tall and if he leans over to put something on the rack he'll touch the hot door that's down.

He's 6 now and makes a few dinners a month totally on his own. He loves it and I love the break. I'm still in there to supervise of course. IMO, it's never too early to teach kids to cook. My other children are younger, but my 3 year old is doing stuff on pretty much the same schedule as my son. The 14 month old isn't interested in much more than helping to stir something in a bowl. :-)

If you start to worry about safety just remember a few things... just a few generations ago it was common for kids, especially girls, to learn how to cook (yes, with hot fires) at a very young age. Just a generation ago, pretty much every boy had a pocket knife before their 5th birthday. I figure our kids are just as smart as the kids born 100 years ago so if they do it, my kids can do it. :-)

I remember starting to learn to cook when my sister and I joined 4H, and that is at age 9.
Depends some on your child, as to how well they will listen to you. Try them out on small things, as far as peeling potatoes or carrots, or slicing something.

As a child I was always in the kitchen helping prepare meals at home with Mom or at one of my Grand Mothers.I was around 2nd or 3rd grade.Just tall enough to see inside what ever I was cooking on the large front burner.Our stove was gas at home so was taught about the pilot lights going out etc. first.And how to safely relight them with large wooden stick matches.That was before all the safety devices stoves have now and most are Electric now a days.Mostly I think it depends on the childs maturety and attention span.I made my first pot of chili from scratch when I was 7 years old and my Dad swore it was better than Moms.That certainly encouraged me.At our school we had differant classes offered one day a week I took cooking, my sister learned how to knit there were several parents that would come in and volunteer with a teacher to teach these mini classes that only lasted maybe 2 hours tops.There were many classes but I can't remember but about 4, there was a class on Music to learn how to read it and how to play a instrument and gymnastics too.I think the boys learned knife safety and how to widdle.I know each teacher polled her class to see who was interested in learning what and then the teachers and principle got together and they decided and then we got to decide which class we wanted to take.It was a small school in Savoy Illinois, a country school.I don't think it even is in use any more.Any ways by the time I reached Jr.high 7th grade I could make a entire dinner for a holiday by myself with no parent helping. So when they assigned me to home economics I aced the class, I could do anything they asked and even won a pie bake off. I also learned how to sew before ever taking these classes.I was taught by my mom how to read a pattern and
how to hand sew just about anything.In jr. high I learned how to use a sewing machine , I was amazed at how fast it was over all hand sewing.Kids both boys and girls need these skills today.Too many city kids as I call them grow up and go off to college or on their own and can't even sew a button on or fix a boxed meal and follow the directions.My step mother use to burn water on the stove, can't begin to count how many pans she went through.My father actually had to teach her how to cook when he married her.She was very highly educated but didn't have a clue as to cooking a meal or caring for a home.Food came from restraunts to her.And maids did all the household chores.Keep up the great parenting you are doing everything right.I even learned how to iron clothes and made spending money by doing my Dads work uniforms and some of his friends wifes stuff. I hated coming home from school and having to cook my Dad dinner because my step Mom couldn't.She had to learn after I graduated and got married and moved away.I even had the responsibility of packing my dads lunch every day before school and had to go milk the cow and run the milk through the strainer to get the cream to make butter later as dinner was cooking.This was in the 1960's and 70's . When most parents really spent time with their kids.If there was a party and the kids couldn't go then they stayed home because no one could baby sit us but our aunts , uncles and grand parents , never a nieghbor or stranger at a day care.Most moms stayed home dads worked some times two jobs to make enough to pay the bills. Oh the good old days of true family values.

I started my children when they were about five years old. They stood on a step stool beside me. I pulled out a drawer so they could rest the mixing bowl in that, lowering the height by about four inches.I started them with a small sharp knife to cut up things like cheese, hard cooked eggs. etc. They can count out the ingredients from the recipe and do a fair bit of the mixing, grating, scooping etc. It's a good idea to get some smaller pot holders for smaller hands. There are some kids cookbooks available as well. You could try your local library.PS One of my children liked cooking so much he made it his career. The things he remembers most about his childhood were the times I'd take him to the store and let him buy whatever ingredients he wanted to make up a dish or two. He was about 16 at the time.He is now a line chef in a high end restaurant in the DC area.

Sounds to me like you are doing things correctly. I would start letting them take the next steps if they would like to take them. I know the fear of the knife thing, but my children were welding one on veggies and fruits by 8. I would let them turn on the stove (I had a gas range) to start boiling water etc., about the same time.
My daughter's of the opinion in most cases if you can't "nuke" it don't buy it and she is now 29. She does use an electric skillet, slow cooker, etc., and does steam veggies on the stove and uses the oven. My son 2 years younger is actually the better cook. Just liked the kitchen and prep better.

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