Kids and Cooking - When?

Updated on January 07, 2014
P.G. asks from San Antonio, TX
29 answers

Hi all,

My son will be 7 in April. He can use the microwave for stuff we cook often (popcorn, chicken patties, marshmallows). He asked for a hot-dog the other day, which is boil water, add dog, wait 3 minutes. He wanted to particpate in the cooking. We have a gas stove, and he's my baby, so of course I'm nervous.

I don't want him to cook un-attended, but am curious - when is an age to start them with cooking - with supervision, beyond mixing and helping?



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answers from Iowa City on

We start with eggs at 3. I think that at 7 you can easily begin letting him help you with the understanding that he cannot use the stove without prior permission. By 9 or 10 most kids can be trusted to cook simple things on their own.

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answers from Norfolk on

You cook together!
It's easy for them to work with dough (4 or 5 yrs old).
My Mom says when she was growing up the kids were the ones who made the noodles.
They can also help make pie crust.
What kid hasn't frosted/decorated Christmas cookies?
Next year they can use the cookie cutters (Mom puts them in oven and takes them out).
Then they can help with salad and sandwiches (5 or 6 yrs old).
By about 10 yrs old they might be able to help chop cheese/veggies with a knife with supervision.
They have to be tall enough to safely use the stove/oven.
By 16 my sister and I could look up recipes in the cook book and make them (I liked breads/cookies/baked goods, she liked to make candy).
You teach them to get out all the ingredients you need before starting, and then to clean as you go so that when the food is ready the kitchen isn't a disaster area.
Have them help you with meal prep as much as possible.
Then when they are teens you can have them make supper one night a week.
No one got out of my mothers house without knowing how to cook!

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answers from Dallas on

I was listening to Bringing Up Bébé: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting by Druckerman, Pamela.
She mentions French kids start cooking very young, maybe when they're old enough to read? They start with making a cake. And they let the kids do it all by themselves.

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answers from Columbia on

Heat the hotdog in the microwave.

You can start him with supervised cooking now. Of course, the way you start is to give him some prep work, and then show him how it's done by doing the dangerous parts in front of him. Show him how the knobs work. Talk about temperatures. Explain which direction turns it on and off. Help him to understand that the knob needs to be turned all the way off (some stoves need a little push to turn them on for gas stoves).

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answers from Dallas on

I started my daughter out pretty young. She is my only and just turned 19 and her time in the kitchen with me was a great experience for both of us.

Of course, we did age appropriate activities for her and advanced as she got older. She has her own condo now and she loves to cook and experiment in the kitchen.

As for your son, I think whatever you feel comfortable with. I would be leary of allowing a 7 yr old with boiling water and a gas stove. We just microwave hotdogs about 30 seconds!

Your child is old enough to help cut chop and measure which will help skills with dexterity as well as math and measurements!


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answers from Chicago on

I always let interested kids participate, even as young as 2. But I really start working with them around 4. At 5, I let them stir things on the stove with supervision.

I'm hoping to pass over one night of cooking to each kid when they turn 9.

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answers from Dallas on

I am assuming you are basically asking...when is it ok to use the stove? My kiddos started using the stove around 4. They help put things into the oven sometimes, but I always take things out. They are supervised, although there are a few things our eight year old could make from start to finish without any help at all. I think your kiddo will be fine.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

My 7 year old helps at the stove. He can make scrambled eggs. I stand right next to him at this point and let him do his eggs while I do an omelet for myself in the pan right next to him.

I'm sure it differs with different kids, but my 7 year old is pretty calm and takes directions well, so I'm fine with it.

BTW - easy hot dogs - roll up in a paper towell and microwave for 30 seconds. It steams itself, no boiling water required :)

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answers from San Francisco on

My kids were ALWAYS in the kitchen with me. As early as 3 they were helping mix and pour, rolling out dough, cracking eggs, washing fruits and veggies, stirring sauce, basically anything they were capable of doing safely.
Just have him in there with you all the time. It's an ongoing process. He'll start by learning about health and safety (washing hands, handling raw meat, how to use a knife safely, etc.)
I love my gas stove but that IS an issue, so pay extra attention there. I still have to remind my 14 year old daughter to pull her long hair back, even after telling her a thousand times :-(
But yes, 7 is for sure old enough. Make him your sous chef and have fun with it!

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answers from Cleveland on

yes, he can use the stove like you said w supervision.

break the task down at first, He gets the pan, he fills it w water ( assuming he is strong enough) you turn the flame one, he montitors the water until it boils. -I love the safetly suggestion of a sturdy safe stool for him, that is going to be a big key in keeping him safe.--
he picks up the hot dog w a tong, you put your hand on top of his and help him lower it into the water. let him set the timer, You take it out and turn off the burner. I think he could help with those parts.

Kudos to everyone that helps teach their kids lifeskills like cooking and LAUNDRY!!

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answers from Seattle on

Start them young. They can start learning to cut/chop things when they are 3 or 4yo, supervised. My 6yo could break eggs and make french toast when she was 4yo, but I wouldn't let her cook it. She can stir or add items to a pot on the stove, but that's about it as far as the really hot stuff. I'd like her to learn how to do more.

My 4 and 6yo bake with me a lot, adding ingredients to the bowl, turning the mixer on and off, etc. They aren't into breaking eggs because it gets messy. But I'll still encourage the 6yo to do it.

I just bought a kids knife from Amazon. I want both of them to help with chopping.

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answers from Abilene on

My son was cooking with me in the kitchen at 3. I have the sweetest pictures of us coking for Christmas and he was on a step stool so he could use the mixer. Of course I was right there the whole time. He also started making scrambled eggs before he was 4. Still using the step stool by the stove. Again, I was there beside him the whole time instructing him. He and I share a love of cooking. At 8 he and I took a cake decorating course together. The teacher said normally she wouldn't allow someone his age in there. I asked if she could speak to him and then give him an opportunity to attend one class. If he were distracted or couldn't handle it, I would not disrupt class and we would leave. After speaking to him she agreed to try him out. He was great through the whole course and became one of her best students. For a long time he wanted to be a chef, now he wants to be an inventor.

All that to say, if your child expresses interest, teach! There is no time like it. They will surprise you every time. I homeschool and am amazed on a weekly basis what my kids are capable of. Never pass up an interest. You'll never know what will grow from it!

On a funny note my daughter (14) has zero interest in all things kitchen related. I told her soon she would leave home and need to know more than how to make soup, grilled cheese or a quesadilla. She laughed and said she would manage just fine. I hope she will desire to do more. She told me she will eventually marry someone like her brother who loves to cook and is good at it. Sigh! C'est la vie!


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answers from Chattanooga on

I recently started my 3 yo with helping me in the kitchen. She chops soft veggies, measures ingredients, puts things in the pan for me, etc. (ALL under very close supervision, with me standing right there helping as needed.)

The other day I let her make scrambled eggs all by herself. The only thing I did was turn on the heat, and hover. I really stressed how to be safe around the stove, and how hot it gets and how it can burn her. She did pretty good too, only had to pick out a few eggshells. ;)

I remember using a gas stove when I was around that age. I was the oldest girl with 3 (at the time) siblings being raised by a single father... A lot of the cooking fell to me. It was only simple things like grilled cheese, hot dogs, box macaroni, etc... But if the klutzy kid I was can handle it, I'm sure he can be taught to start. :)

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answers from Honolulu on

I have taught my kids to cook when they were toddlers.
At 3, my son could cook his own scrambled eggs from start to finish, with my supervision, but he did it all himself. And he could crack open the eggs real well by himself. So yes, even teaching my kids how to crack open an egg. How to scramble it. How to heat up the pan. Every single step, I taught them.
My kids could also operate the microwave since I taught them how.
How to use cooking implements, how to cook, what bowls are for what, where to find things in the kitchen, about timing, about safety when cooking, how to turn things on and off, how to clean up after, how to measure liquids or dry ingredients, and about rules/safety in the kitchen, etc.

I let my kids cook, whatever they are wanting to.
They are 7 and 11 now, and are real adept at it.
My daughter could make crepes by herself since she was about 8, all by herself, from start to finish. That is her "specialty."

Its up to you.
My daughter who is 11, has a classmate, that only this past summer, was taught how to use a microwave and how to cook.

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answers from Boston on

Now is a good time for him to learn how to turn on the burners and stove with your supervision, fill sauce pans with water, etc. My 7 year old likes to fill the tea kettle with water and turn that on and can cook scrambled eggs from start to finish as long as I'm in the kitchen.

For the hot dog...I'd have him microwave that for 30 seconds and be done with it :-)

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answers from Portland on

I think giving him this sort of responsibility while you are in the room at this age is fine. I wish mine were more interested in cooking, actually. (Yours and mine are the same age.) When I was a nanny, one family had a six year old boy who could make his own mac-n-cheese (with help draining the pasta) and scrambled eggs, quesadillas.

Start small. And give some information in advance. Things like "If the water boils over, turn the heat down." stuff he wouldn't know on his own. (My mother assumed I knew these things and would get upset that I freaked out because the oatmeal was boiling over.) Be close by and just give him things to notice/watch for. Teach him how to know when there's 'too much' flame at the bottom of the pan. Teach him to keep aprons, hot mitts and other objects clear.

I'd also see how tall he is. As a rule, I don't like stools by stoves; if he does use a stool, make sure it's got good grips on the bottom and can't fold up on him or slip out from under him easily. Rubbermaid makes a low stepstool that locks open, has a rubber grip step pad and we use this at the counter for helping out.

Regarding cutting and knives: my son does help me with this, I let him do the softer foods (apples, mushrooms, fruit) with a small paring knife on a cutting board at the table. There are also fun crinkle cutters which often require kids to use two hands, the benefit of this being that their fingers aren't likely to get in the way. I will sometimes have him peel a carrot or root veg, I'll cut it in half the long way or quarter it, so it's flat on one side and won't roll, and he can chop away. Here's a link to one:

We have this at home and have excellent luck with it. Great for helping chop up thicker veggies for soups/stews, etc. Molly Katzen has some good kids cookbooks, too.

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answers from Washington DC on

he's easily old enough to start helping. this is about the age i started my boys on menu planning and being the 'boss' for one meal per week, although of course they were very supervised. and from the time they were little they 'helped' with stirring and measuring.
from around 10 on they started actually fixing one meal per week. they were simple meals, obviously.
i'd love to say it had the desired effect of raising totally kitchen-competent young men. my younger is a very good chef, but my older perplexes me. he still goes and buys himself fast food pretty much every night for dinner. i swear he does it just to make me clutch my head.
:/ khairete

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answers from Huntington on

I think 7 is a great age to start allowing him to cook. By now he should be able to read well enough to follow a basic recipe, and at his point, they have gone over fractions at school. I think my kiddos started at about 7/8 to cook a bit in their own- scrambled eggs, german pancakes, pancakes from scratch, cornbread, grilled cheese are the things they typically make on their own. We start off with me actually being in the kitchen but letting them do it on their own unless they ask for help- they still get nervous about getting stuff out of the oven. Then after a few times they are able to do it with me out of the room. Yes, we have had a few mess-ups where they misread the recipe or do not read the whole recipe before beginning, but I think that is just a good learning experience. We have yet to have a disaster.

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answers from San Francisco on

As soon as possible. It's one of my regrets, that I didn't cook much with my kids. They love to cook with mom when they are little, and they are capable of a lot. Have fun.

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answers from Grand Forks on

Having only ever had electric stoves I am afraid to use a gas stove myself, so I don't imagine I would ever let my kids use one. My kids have been using the microwave unsupervised since they were about your sons age, but my 11 year old has only started using the stove and oven himself this past year, and only when I am home. He just started taking home-ec at school this year as well. My kids prefer to make hot dogs in the microwave-they put the wiener in the bun, wrap in paper towel an heat for about 20 seconds.

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answers from Phoenix on

My three year old can make scrambled eggs from scratch on our flat-top stove, but I would be more nervous with the open flame of the gas stove. Maybe start him on some baking, where you can put things in and take them out of the oven and he can do the rest? There are some great cookbooks out there for kids that don't use heat or sharp things :) We like "The Do It Myself Kids' Cookbook" by Laurie Wolf. My 6 year old can make just about everything in it (with modifications for our vegetarian/seafood diet) and he can help with a lot of the prep stuff so his brother can help, too. The recipes are also very tasty and kid-friendly. We love the shrimp and avocado tacos- if you don't mind using thawed cooked frozen shrimp, your 7 year should be able to make them all by himself, heating the shells in the microwave.

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answers from Austin on

Heck yes if you are there to supervise, why not? Just remind him that he is not to use the stove without an adult standing next to him.

By 7 we made canned soup, scrambled eggs, grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese from a box our parents drained the noodles. We did not have a microwave yet.

Just have him use the stove on low. Make sure he can see if you have to use a step stool make sure it is sturdy.

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answers from New York on

Five with supervision of course. There is a lot a five year old can do short of turning on the burners and using stove. I never even let my kids cook alone when they were teenagers (young teens). I mean they are airheads and never to be trusted.

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answers from Phoenix on

My kids are 11 and 14 and over the last year they have started helping me with cooking dinner and some other meals on the weekends. They now get their own breakfasts which is very nice. My daughter loves the chicken hot dogs and is home during the day so she uses the Panini grill to heat them for herself for lunch. I don't think you can just throw out a certain age. I think it depends on the kids experience and what you feel comfortable with them knowing/doing without your help or being there. Good luck.

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answers from Chicago on

My kids started with supervision around 7 or 8. They started helping me--putting pasta in the pot, putting eggs in the pan etc, around 6 yrs old. Now at 14, they have no problems cooking their own food. Actually been doing it for a couple of years now. I still have to remind them about the size of the flame sometimes but no accidents.

BTW, my 5 yr old cooks hotdogs herself in the microwave. A bowl with a little water and 1 minute to cook. My son puts hot dogs without any water--just washes it off and puts in the microwave for 40 seconds. None have exploded yet. :)

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answers from Minneapolis on

I cook together all the time with my kids. My daughter is 6 and my son is 9. I give them each a job to do. I showed my 9 year old how to turn the gas stove on. Both know how to turn the oven on. Both know that they are not allowed to to any cooking without an adult. Both know how to toast in the toaster oven and use the microwave. My 9 year old even cuts up apples for my 6 year old.

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answers from New York on

Great question - my 7 yo theoretically could do it too - she is very bright. I am so nervous if I showed her how to do the stove that she may then do it by herself...when I wasn't right there. So we haven't gone there yet. She'd also love to cut things up and I don't let her!

My kids mix/make meatballs/bread chicken etc.



answers from Cumberland on

I was going to say one hour before dinner time-but then you mentioned the open flame thing and suddenly my response was not so funny-I would say around age 11 or so-7 is pretty young-but with total supervision and constant safety reminders, maybe younger...?? Be safe!



answers from Oklahoma City on

He's old enough to be in there with you and helping. That doesn't mean he should be flipping burgers or deep frying It means he can be in there using the electric mixer, the toaster, a veggie peeler on potatoes or carrots, etc...

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