Grooving in the kitchen with your kids

Young children cooking with parent

Some people seem to be naturally good at incorporating their kids into cooking. In fact, some of my friends look like they come right out of a family and food magazine they do it so well. Me on the other hand, all I think about is the mess that my kids will make, the extra time it will take to put the meal together, how the crackers can't touch the dip display, and the fact there may be a finger poke or two in the brownies by the time we serve them to our guests.

Go ahead, call me nuts

I want to be the fun mom that lets flour fly all over my kitchen, while me and my kids laugh, spend quality time together. In this scenario, we make a delicious meal and the mess magically cleans itself up. But the truth is, I can't handle that. Learning to coexist in the kitchen with my young children didn't come natural to the perfectionist, time-saving person I tend to be. That's why I realized it helps to have activities planned ahead of time. Here's a list to help plan fun, learning activities in the kitchen organized by the child's age.

Kitchen activity ideas for young kids

At 2 Years

  • Wipe tables and counters
  • Put items in the trash
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables
  • Count foods
  • Name color of foods
  • Name foods
  • Bring play kitchen toys into the real kitchen and 'cook' together
Learning to coexist in the kitchen with my young children didn't come natural to the perfectionist, time-saving person I tend to be.

At 3 Years

  • Help stir ingredients
  • Help shape foods (knead dough, make meatballs, roll cookie dough)
  • Put ingredients on pizza
  • Load dishwasher
  • Help clear table
  • Pretend cook with cheap ingredients/spices
  • 'Wash' non-sharp dishes in sink — they'll have fun playing in soapy water!
  • Pour pre-measured items into ingredient bowl
  • Learn to wash hands before cooking
  • Help set the table
  • Stir lemonade
A young cook

At 4 Years

  • Set the table
  • Peel fruits like bananas and oranges
  • Use kid-safe knife (no blade) to 'cut' soft foods like butter, strawberries, bread, etc.
  • Help measure ingredients
  • Make simple recipes like sandwiches, bagel pizzas, lettuce wraps
  • Snip green beans and help shuck corn
  • Help put a veggie or fruit tray together neatly

At 5 Years

  • Use dull knife to spread
  • Set and clear table
  • Help read recipe
  • Clean and scrub potatoes, cucumbers, or other hard veggies
  • Use cookie cutter
  • Mix ingredients
  • Frost cookies

Always Remember These General Kitchen Safety Tips

  1. Wash hands prior to cooking.
  2. Do not leave sharp or hot objects in accessible places for kids. Keep knives out of reach and pot handles turned in.
  3. Do not let your kids go near a hot stove.
  4. Test dishwater temperature before letting your kids help and make sure there are no sharp objects under dishwater.
  5. Do not let your children use sharp objects.
  6. Do not leave your children unattended while cooking, even during prep and clean-up.

Remember to enjoy the time you spend with your kids and safety first.

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