Cooking with Kids: Recipes & Activities by Age!

Cooking is a tactile activity that uses all five senses and is made up of dozens of little tasks, each one suitable for different age levels. Including children in the kitchen activates their taste buds and develops essential skills for a lifetime. Below are some tips for different age groups.  Maturity and dexterity differ in each child, so it’s up to you to determine what skill level is appropriate for your kids.
Be sure to check out our Top 10 tips for Cooking with Kids and our Safety Guide before getting started! 

Ages 3-5 

These little ones need supervision, but are very tactile and love to eat their projects. Get clever by letting them have fun while also creating a byproduct you can use in a recipe.  The introduction of cooking to this particular age group will have a lifelong impact.  They will be eager to help, so with a proper set-up you can set your child and yourself up for success.  The most important thing to remember is that it WILL get messy. Be prepared and embrace the mess! The extra effort it takes to clean up, is well worth the developmental impact. 
Activities to work on together: 
  • Picking herbs from stems
  • Tearing up greens and herbs
  • Massaging oil into greens
  • Spreading soft cheeses, jams, and nut butters
  • Kneading, punching, and rolling dough
  • Scrubbing and wrapping potatoes in foil 
  • Scooping cooled/cooked potatoes from skins
  • Mashing 
  • Gentle stirring and whisking 
  • Using a mortar & pestle
  • Washing produce in the sink
  • Smashing cookies and crackers for crumbs
  • Using cookie cutters
  • Experimenting with food coloring to color icings
  • Decorating pizzas and cookies
  • Spooning ingredients into scales
  • Brushing egg or oil with a pastry brush
  • Sprinkling herbs and spices
  • Pouring from a measuring cup into a bowl
  • Sorting nuts
  • Peeling oranges
  • Draining and rinsing beans
  • Slicing soft items like tofu, cheese, avocado
  • Washing and putting away dishes
  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher 
  • Unloading groceries 
Recipes to play together with! 
Fruit salad
Peanut butter banana sandwiches
No-Bake Peanut Butter Bites
Chocolate Dipped Apple
Easy Guacamole

Ages 6-8

This age range has more motor skills, independence, and focus. You can introduce more kitchen tools, but they will still need reminders to watch their fingers during cutting, grating, and peeling. This is a great age to start including in menu planning.  These children are great problem solvers who want to have their voices heard.  Allowing a child within this age range to share their mealtime desires honors their interest as an individual within your family. 
Activities to do together: 
  • Reading aloud recipe steps
  • Gathering ingredients and equipment
  • Scooping batter into muffin tins
  • Cracking and peeling eggs
  • Grating cheese
  • Zesting
  • De-seeding tomatoes
  • Forming cookies, balls, and patties
  • Measuring dry and liquid ingredients 
  • Garnishing dishes
  • Snipping herbs with scissors
  • Setting the table
Recipes to whip up together: 
Muffin Tin Pot Pie
Carrot Pinwheels
Strawberry Banana Yogurt Smoothie
Yogurt Parfait
Broccoli and Carrot Fritters
Mini Chicken Parms
Tiny Pancakes
Bell Pepper Pizzas
FroYo Bites
Meatballs
Twice-Baked Potatoes
Tuna Salad Sandwich
Pizza Bagels
Hummus
Mini Pancakes

Ages 9-11

This age group can usually work independently in the kitchen after helping them get started and assessing if they can follow basic kitchen safety rules. Then, they can move onto basic tasks at the stove and oven, or using a chef’s knife with adult supervision
Activities they can start to do on their own: 
  • Using a knife 
  • Using a can opener
  • Using the stovetop and oven
  • Using appliances (food processor, toaster, blender) 
  • Preparing sandwiches
  • Putting away leftovers
  • Pounding chicken/meat
  • Use a meat thermometer and learn safe temperatures
  • Skewering food
  • Making their own school lunch
  • Preparing simple snacks
Recipes to make with just a little supervision! 
Pizza Quesadillas
Hawaiian Chicken Kebabs
Fondue
Pizza Toast
Frank and Beans
Nachos
Chili
Sheet Pan Gnocchi with Sausage & Tomato
Egg-in-a-Hole
Brownie Mix Cookies
Strawberry Muffins

12 and up 

Older kids and teens may be well equipped to accomplish any number of practiced kitchen and cooking tasks. At this age, they can start preparing simple meals for themselves and others, and use the stove and oven without supervision.
Activities they can do on their own: 
  • Making recipes on the stovetop (scrambled eggs, quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches)
  • Using real knives for prep work
  • Operating electrical appliances
  • Building a menu and creating a shopping list
Recipes to tackle independently! 
Buttered Noodles
Enchiladas
Pesto Chicken + Asparagus
Turkey Zucchini Boats
Vegetable Coconut Curry
Sloppy Joe’s
Mini Ravioli Lasagna Cups
Chicken Nuggets
Butter Tomato Pasta

We'd like to give a special thank you to Julia Mohseni of Sunnyside Montessori for being a wonderful resource for our Cooking with Kids segment. We hope you enjoyed these recipes and cooking activities! Let us know if you try them in your own home-kitchen 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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