Kids in the Kitchen

Cooking with Kids!

I finally figured out what was wrong with my blog! One of my plugins was no longer available and had to be deleted. Now I can write again. YAY! This post went out a week ago but without any content (since I wasn’t able to write any text in WordPress) so I am resending now with the full post as intended! I even made a few additions :)


Benefits of Cooking with your kids:

Cooking with your kids instills self-confidence and provides an opportunity to help them explore a variety of nutritious foods. It also helps teach them basic life-skills like following directions, math, science, reasoning, problem-solving, food safety and planning. And, perhaps most importantly, cooking with your kids is a great relationship builder!  Imagine the hours spend together in the kitchen and the conversations that will take place as you whisk, chop, slice and frost?!

Statistics show that kids who cook with and eat gathered around the table with their family are less likely to succumb to peer-pressure, drugs, alcohol, and make poor choices. They are also more likely to do well in school, go on to college, confide in their parents, be responsible, and they have more self-esteem. And… they will be contributing to the family and will learn the importance of helping.

Age-Appropriate Kitchen Tasks:

This is just a guideline as all kids develop and mature at different levels. You know your child best so use these guidelines combined with your judgement to determine if your child is mature enough and has the dexterity to perform the suggested tasks.


Most toddlers love helping in the kitchen but their motor skills are still developing. There are still lots of things they can do with supervision.

  • Tear lettuce and other greens
  • Kneed dough
  • Use a cookie cutter
  • Add sprinkles
  • Placing cupcake liners in pan
  • Pick herbs
  • Squeeze citrus fruits
  • Placing items in a blender, food processor or mixing bowl (make sure nothing is plugged in at the time)
  • Pushing buttons (Kids love the sound of the blender and food processor. Let them press the buttons and watch the chopping, pureeing, etc.)


Four to Six Years Old

  • All from above list
  • Use a pepper grinder
  • Add herbs
  • Use a pastry brush to “paint” barbeque sauce, oil, melted butter, etc.
  • Stirring
  • Mashing
  • Whisking
  • Using measuring cups and spoons
  • Adding toppings to pizza, ice cream, cookies, cakes, etc.


Seven to Ten Years Old

  • All from above lists
  • Chopping and slicing
  • Peeling vegetables
  • Breaking eggs
  • Grating and Shredding
  • Scooping out foods like avocados and baked potatos
  • Using a microplane, zester and garlic mincer
  • Rinsing vegetables, dried beans, and fruit
  • Greasing pans
  • Forming loaves, patties, and cookies
  • Filling cupcake liners
  • Garnishing dishes
  • Recognize what different kitchen tools and appliances do
  • Opening cans with can opener
  • Stirring items on the stove (after age 9)
  • Help to empty the dishwasher
  • Using handheld mixer
  • Make shopping list
  • Help plan meals
  • Read food labels
  • Start following a recipe


Eleven to Thirteen Years Old

  • Using the microwave, toaster, and toaster oven
  • Baking
  • Using pizza cutter
  • Scraping down the sides of standing mixer
  • Using a food processor
  • Putting away leftovers
  • Washing dishes
  • Loading and emptying dishwasher
  • Cleaning the kitchen
  • Skewering foods
  • Slicing bread
  • Pounding meat and poultry
  • Following a recipe and preparing entire meal with supervision


Fourteen and Older

If your teen has spent time in the kitchen over the years and learned basic safety and cooking skills, they should be able to prepare meals on their own. Allowing them to have dinner on the table when you come home gives them a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, lets them contribute to the household, and gives them self-esteem.

Cooking with your teen is a great relationship builder. Even if your teen is hesitant to talk about what is going on in his or her life, talking about the meal you are preparing together will lead to deeper conversations. Here are a few fun things to do with your teen:

  • Plan and prepare special meals, and holiday and party menus together
  • Attend a cooking class together
  • Try out restaurants with different cuisines and discuss your likes and dislikes about the flavors of each. Maybe try to recreate your favorites at home.


Health, Safety and Tool Use Guidelines

  • Wash your hands! Explain the importance of washing your hands before working in the kitchen and throughout meal preparation.
  • When using a cutting board, place a damp towel beneath the board to keep it from moving.
  • Use a larger cutting board than you think you will need. It’s harder for kids to maneuver if the work space is crowded.
  • Use an egg slicer to slice eggs, mushrooms, bananas, strawberries, etc. It’s fun and a great way to slice before your child is ready to use a knife.
  • Use a box grater. Remind them to tuck in their fingers and not to go all the way down to the end of whatever they are grating so they don’t grate their fingers. Also have them watch their knuckles!
  • To use a vegetable peeler: Help your child get a firm grip on the peeler wrapping their hand around the handle like a fish. Place the blade of the peeler at the top of the vegetable you are going to peel. Tilt it at an angle slightly away from you (so the blade will cut the vegetable) and gently press as you swipe down to the end of the vegetable to peel. (A peeler is also a fun way to create thin strips of vegetables and fruits.)
  • Teach them basic first aid like what to do if they get cut or burned in the kitchen.
  • Using a Knife – Safety Tips!
    • Make sure your child is wearing closed toe shoes just in case the knife falls to the floor.
    • If you don’t have a cutting board with a non-slip bottom, place a damp towel under your cutting board to keep it from slipping.
    • Teach them not to touch a knife when you are not around. (Some kids have the “I can do it myself” mindset. Explain how important it is not to use a knife without supervision. Keep them out of their reach.)
    • Teach them NOT to try to catch a knife if it falls! Jump out of the way and let it fall!
    • When carrying a knife, carry it point down.
    • Place your hands over your child’s hands to guide them the first few times they use a knife.
    • Consider beginning with a child’s learning set. They are made of plastic and work to cut most things while not cutting fingers.
    • Photo from

      Hold the item you are cutting with your non-dominant hand. Shape the holding hand like a claw with fingers tucked under so they form a “C” shape. This keeps their fingertips safe from the edge of the knife and, as they get older, they will learn to use their knuckles as a guide for the knife.

    • Never take your eyes off what you are cutting.
    • Before cutting something that is round like an apple, potato, cucumber, carrot, etc., slice a thin piece off the bottom so it will be stable on the cutting board. Place the item flat side down so it won’t roll around on the cutting board.
    • The tip of the knife should always be on the cutting board. You cut by rocking the knife up and down – lifting and lowering the handle of the knife while slowly pushing the item you are slicing toward the knife with your “clawed” hand.
    • Begin with large, soft items like a slice of watermelon or a banana.
    • Make sure you knives are sharp. Sharp knives cut through food easily so the knife does the work of slicing. If the knife is dull the child will push harder and, if they slip, can cut themselves with force causing a serious injury.

Jackie and Gabriel Mauney with Becky Bender with Colleen Odegaard on Charlotte Today

Getting Kids to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

  • Try cutting fruits and veggies into shapes using cookie cutters. Just cut the fruit or vegetable into ½-inch slices then use the cookie cutter to cut into fun shapes like, hearts, stars, flowers, bells, etc. For tougher veggies or veggies eaten cooked (like sweet potatoes), bake them before slicing and using the cookie cutters.
  • Give them a variety to choose from. Try serving two or three different vegetables with dinner and ask them to choose which one(s) they would like to try.
  • Be persistent but not demanding. It can take up to 15 times before a child will actually like a food they have been indifferent to.
  • Practice what you preach! Be a good example. Kids want to eat what you are eating so choose wisely!
  • Don’t force your kids to eat something they don’t like or want to try; and don’t bribe them to get them to try something or to get them to eat carrots if they don’t like them. Forcing and bribing will be associated with the food you are trying to get them to eat. If you tell your kid they can’t play with their friends until they finish the dreaded carrots, they may hate carrots for the rest of their life because they associate them with not being able to play.
  • Try serving vegetables raw or try different cooking methods to see if your child truly does not like a certain vegetable. My son loves raw mushrooms and carrots but does not like them cooked. I don’t like steamed squash but love it roasted or grilled. I don’t like cooked peas but love pea pods and sugar snap peas – and I like pea soup. It’s a texture thing!


Healthy Snack Ideas

  • Spread natural peanut butter or Greek yogurt on an apple or on a banana and sprinkle with chopped nuts, shredded coconut, finely chopped pretzels, granola, or any crunchy topping.
  • Peel and slice a banana. Dip into melted dark chocolate and freeze. Before freezing you can sprinkle with chopped nuts or coconut if desired.
  • Use cookie cutters to cut vegetables and fruits into fun shape (makes fun sandwiches too)
  • Make fruit or veggie kabobs. Add cheese cubes for some protein. Food is more fun on a stick!
  • Make veggie rollups. Spread whole wheat tortilla with low-fat cream cheese or hummus. Arrange favorite veggies over the cream cheese then roll up and slice into pinwheels.
  • Make peanut butter quesadillas. Spread whole wheat tortilla with natural peanut or almond butter. Arrange raisins, cut bananas, or other fruit over the nut butter. Fold and cook as you would a cheese quesadilla.
  • Make pizza using whole grain pizza dough, English muffins or whole grain roll. Spread with sauce of choice and top with cheese and raw veggies.
  • Freeze grapes for a yummy crunchy cold snack.
  • Make a smoothie with frozen fruit, yogurt, milk or juice. Just add all to a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Make dippers. Every kid loves to dip their food. Cut up an assortment of fresh veggies and serve with hummus or ranch dip made with plain Greek yogurt.
  • Fill celery stalk with peanut butter and sprinkle with your favorite dried fruit

kids knife setNOTE: If you are interested in the kids cooking knives I use, click on my Amazon Store and go to “Cooking with Kids.”






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