Cooking Tasks Kids Can Help With at Every Age

From toddler to tween — here's how to get kids excited about the kitchen.

March 31, 2020
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child preparing pizza with parent

child preparing pizza with parent

Spain, Tarragona. Father and son preparing pizzas at home

Photo by: Josep M Rovirosa / Getty Images

Josep M Rovirosa / Getty Images

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Cooking with your kids is a wonderful bonding experience that can instill confidence, inspire adventurous eating and lay the groundwork for a lifelong love of cooking. Every age presents a new opportunity to learn, build and add new culinary skills: Kids can start by simply whisking eggs, move to cracking and separating them and eventually make an omelet. Consider the kitchen an evolving hands-on classroom. There's a ton of potential for kids to experiment and learn: spelling (julienne; cilantro), math (how many teaspoons in a tablespoon?), science (what makes bread rise?) and nutrition (what does vitamin C do?).

All children develop and learn at their own unique pace so adapt the suggestions below to suit your little ones’ skills. What’s important is that you're in the kitchen together and having fun.

Safety First:

Cooking together is a great time to remind kids of the importance of washing hands for food and personal safety.

Fire and knives are dangerous for adults so that goes triple for kids: No child should ever be unattended in a kitchen. As they grow and seek new skills, they may want to start chopping and stir-frying. Once you’re confident they’re ready, start with a kids’ safety knife (there's no blade) and review knife skills 101 together. Get them a fun apron that fits snugly, have them roll up their sleeves and tie back long hair for safety around open flames.

Helpers: 2- to 3-year-olds

Tasks for toddlers.

Your baby has graduated from banging on pots and pans and is ready to be a kitchen helper. Kids at this age are working on building their fine motor skills, and cooking is a great way to help them feel included and get them confident with their hands (perhaps when using measuring cups and spoons to help to make eggless cookie dough!). They'll need lots of supervision and guidance, so be sure to plan ahead, relying on only simple tasks. A few ideas:

  • Measuring dry ingredients with measuring cups and spoons
  • Measuring water, milk and other wet ingredients in liquid measuring cups
  • Helping with a salad spinner
  • Garnishing dishes with chopped herbs, grated cheese etc.
  • Squeezing citrus with a citrus press
  • Kneading dough
  • Sprinkling salt (hold off on pepper for now — it could burn their eyes)
  • Brushing milk or melted butter onto baked goods
  • Spreading pizza sauce
  • Decorating cookies
  • Using cookie cutters to cut out dough

Prep Cook: 4- to 5-year-olds

Preschoolers can prep.

ABCs and 123s — your preschooler may be ready for more cooking responsibilities. Supervision is still key, but they can be more involved in prepping. Watch cooking videos together, so they know what to expect and what will come of their help. Here are some task ideas:

  • Picking herbs
  • Washing produce
  • Whisking eggs
  • Stirring together dry and wet ingredients
  • Stirring and mashing — think dressing and guacamole
  • Greasing pans for baking
  • Filling muffins trays and cake pans with batter
  • Rolling dough
  • Helping with clean-up

Baker: 6- to 7-year-olds

Culinary Kiddos.

Full speed ahead: Your child might be more interested in baking at this age. They can measure and mix baked goods — with your help. Plus, there's plenty of peeling and grating to be done:

  • Mixing for baking — adding ingredients, scraping down the bowl of an unplugged mixer or beating with a hand mixer.
  • Cracking and separating eggs (be sure to wash hands after!)
  • Scooping and rolling cookie dough (also, wash hands)
  • Peeling fruits and vegetables
  • Grating cheese and citrus
  • Helping wash the dishes
  • Setting the table

Meal Planner: 8- to 9-year-olds

Elementary essentials.

Your elementary-aged child can start actively helping plan meals for the family, in addition to helping with the prepping and cooking. More autonomous tasks include:

  • Meal planning
  • Helping with the shopping list
  • Making part of their own school lunches
  • Starting to read through and follow a recipe
  • Using a can opener
  • Storing leftovers
  • Making a very simple dish on the stove — such as scrambled eggs

Sous Chef: 10- to 12-year-olds

Tween techniques.

By now your child may have more impressive skills than you. They may be able to enjoy more freedom cooking for themselves and the family — though you'll be nearby to assist, whether with removing cakes from the oven or overseeing a perfect omelet.

  • Chopping with a knife (dependent on the parents' comfort level)
  • Simple sautéing on the stove
  • Baking in the oven (pies, breads)
  • Frosting and decorating cakes
  • Preparing omelets
  • Experimenting with their own recipes

With enough time in the kitchen, the student may surpass the teacher — you might find yourself as the helper!

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