There’s no “right” time to teach kids to cook. Even toddlers can help in the kitchen to some extent. Obviously, you’re not going to want them doing potentially hazardous jobs like stirring a boiling potful of soup, but there are ways that they can pitch in, learn and have fun without ever going near knives or dangerous appliances.
One thing I’ve learned from my own children is, as soon as you walk into the kitchen, they’re drawn to you like moths to a flame. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing or where they are, they have a “mommy’s in the kitchen” radar. Moving back and forth amongst the stove, refrigerator and counters becomes frustrating and dangerous when you’ve got a couple uninvited sous chefs literally hanging from your apron strings.
It became abundantly clear that if I took the time to teach my kids to cook, rather than constantly tripping over them or trying to come up with crazy ways to switch their focus, we’d all be better for it.
If you brainstorm a bit, you’ll be able to find plenty of ways your littles can help you out, though I’ll admit here and now, the extra help won’t save you any time. BUT, they’ll love it, and they’ll be so proud of themselves, the extra time, effort and mess will be well worth it in the end.
Little Ways to Teach Kids to Cook
Ingredient Helper– Having your kids help you gather up items you’ll need from the fridge or a cabinet is beneficial for a few reasons. They will learn the proper names for common foods, how to follow directions and to take turns.
Measuring Helper– Older children can actually help you fill cups and spoons to the proper measurements, but the wee tykes can also help by pouring the ingredients into the mixing bowl. They’ll feel just as important.
Counting Helper- Practicing counting, even with a one-year-old is time well spent. “Mommy needs three tomatoes. One tomato, two tomatoes, three tomatoes. Yay! That’s what we need. Thank you for your help.” Clapping gets the tiny people super excited and they’ll associate counting with praise. Great lesson, minimal effort. That’s a double win, folks.
Produce Rinser- Get a tub of water and let your little peanut play, uhh, I mean, rinse the veggies and fruits. It’s an important step in produce preparation, and it’s a healthy habit to stress when you teach kids to cook.
Napkin Folder- Most toddlers can follow simple steps like folding a square napkin diagonally into a triangle. Demonstrate how to fold the first napkin, then let her do the next. If she needs some hand-over-hand assistance with her first attempt, help her out and then let her have at it. You may end up with 15 oddly-folded napkins for a family of four, but what harm is it really doing? She’s learning shapes and how to follow simple directions.
If you use your imagination, there are plenty of ways to creatively involve your children in meal preparation, even the littlest ones.
Leave a comment below with any suggestions you have for other parents who want to teach their kids to cook.
Jessi Arias-Cooper is the senior writer and an editor for Advice4Parenting.com. She is a work-from-home mother of 3 boys and has been married for 10 years. If she had time for hobbies and interests outside of parenting and keeping house, they would be jewelry making, baking, watching bad B-movie horror flicks and creative writing . If you have a question for Jessi, click here.