Cooking with Kids: Our Top 10 Tips

To make the most of your time in the kitchen with little ones, we have put together some tips to review before jumping in. This is a great opportunity for parents to also become more comfortable in the kitchen and learn new skills and patience. Remember, maturity and dexterity differ in each child, so it’s up to you to determine what skill level is appropriate for your kids and meet them where they are.
Enjoy these top 10 tips for cooking with your kiddos! 

1. Go slow and little by little

Start with one new skill a month and practice it. Demonstrate the task first and then let them do it on their own. Only step in to help if they are really struggling. Remember that the skill is the goal, not perfection. Focus on the process, not the final product.  

2. When a spill or accident happens - be cool

Part of cooking is making a mess. Be mentally prepared for that.  Include your child in the cleanup process. Teach children, right from the start, that when you cook you also need to clean up your workspace.  Have dish towels on hand because spills will happen! 

3. Prep or play? 

Decide if you want the kids to actually help with preparing the meal, or if you prefer to give them tasks parallel to meal prep to keep them occupied at the kitchen table while dinner is being made. (i.e. pizza for dinner, plus a consequence-free play pizza)

4. Allocate extra time

When cooking with kids, make sure you give yourself plenty of time. Use the weekends and non-rush-hour times to teach new skills. You may find yourself with more patience. Try not to rush.  If this turns into a stressful activity the child will not be as interested or eager next time.

5. Get set up for success

While kids become more present in the kitchen, be mindful of how the kitchen is organized.
  • Consolidate off-limit items (sharp knives, alcohol, chemical-based cleaning supplies, etc.) and add a cabinet or drawer lock if needed.
  • Make the rest of the kitchen accessible by keeping step stools handy for little ones, and designating lower drawers and cabinets to kids’ tools and items.
  • Set up a cooking station with a big cookie sheet, safe tools, and tasks ready to go. 

6. Include in the process

Include kids in meal planning and recipe discovery. The more involved children are in the cooking process from start to finish, the more likely they will be interested in trying new foods. 

7. Show them shows! 

Get kids excited about food by watching cooking shows, especially ones with kids in them (i.e. Masterchef Jr., Chopped Jr., and Kids Baking Championship), reading kid-centric cookbooks (The StepStool Chef, Better Homes & Gardens New Junior Cook Book), and playing with food toys like plush produce and play kitchens for the little ones. 

8. Proper equipment

Check out your local dollar store or Montessori outlet to find kid-friendly kitchen and cleaning tools designated just for them. Having the proper size tools helps set the child up for success. 

9. Encouraging words

Show your pride with lots of compliments! Praising their efforts in the kitchen will encourage continued learning and interest in cooking. 

10. Reflect alone and together

Reflect on what went well, what went wrong, and what can be done differently next time. Not just in regards to skills, but also the overall dish. Reflect on flavors and textures to help kids develop an understanding of their own palate and ability to improve.

We hope these tips are helpful and set you and your little ones up for success in the kitchen! To make sure you’re fully prepared, review our Safety and Hygiene Guide and check out our post on recipes and cooking activities by age!

Show us what you’re cooking as a family by tagging #mealherokid on social media! We'd love to feature your family and are always here for any cooking or food related questions you may have. Reach out to us in messages on Facebook or Instagram or via email at support@mealhero.com.  

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