Tips on Getting Children Involved in the Kitchen


cooking with children

[Shared by Working Berlin Mum]

This evening Milo surprised me with a request to come and help me cook dinner. We have done this a few times before but not for a month or so, so I was delighted that he wanted to join me and I knew the meal I had planned would have enough ‘jobs’ that he could safely get involved with.

Encouraging Milo to cook is something that is really important to me. I have been amazed in the last few years at how many men (and women) there are out there that have little ability to make the most basic of meals and I must say that I find that a real turn off. I know you can’t force someone to enjoy cooking, I wasn’t really in to it before I had Milo, but knowing how to make at least a handful of basic, healthy recipes is a skill that I think every person should have. I love a man who can cook and so this is something I plan on passing on to my boys or at least I will do my best to!

With that in mind, here are some top tips (if I say so myself) on how to get your little ones involved in the kitchen…

  • Choose a relatively fast recipe & allocate yourself extra time to make it Whatever meal you are preparing, it will inevitably take a lot longer to prepare and cook with the ‘help’ of little hands. You don’t want either yourself, your family or your little helper to be starving hungry before you are near finished so make sure you start the whole process earlier then you would were you to be cooking the meal solo.
  • Let your child help you decide what to cook Perhaps you could choose 3 meals that you know your child (and the rest of the household) likes to eat and then he or she can choose which one he/she would like to cook. If this is too complex, you could maybe let your child choose which vegetables to include in a hotpot perhaps.
  • Let your child be the ‘little chef’ A great option for those children who love to play dress-up, is to give them a little chef’s outfit that they only get to wear when cooking with you. This will add an extra exciting element to the task and my son loves wearing his chef garb.
  • Children’s aprons can be found in all sorts of designs such as these funky patterned aprons from ‘Dotcomgiftshop’, these apron and hat sets from ‘Little Chef Big Chef’ or you could even make one yourself with this free children’s apron pattern from ‘Mama Liberated’.
  • Milo checking out his outfit in the mirror
  • Make sure you’re in the right frame of mind There is nothing worse then spending the whole time you are cooking together getting frustrated with your little helper. They will inevitably spill water, make a mess, drop food on the floor etc and dependent on their age, this could happen A LOT! In order to make sure for a harmonious cooking environment, I only ever tackle joint cooking ventures when I know I am going to have the patience for these mishaps. If you spend the whole time getting annoyed with/at them, they will likely not want to help again in the future.
  • Assign your child challenging yet realistic tasks according to their age/abilities The tasks your little helper will be able to take on will vary a lot dependent on their age / ability level. With my son who has a short attention span and can get quite frustrated when unable to do something, I will often assign him jobs like washing vegetables, sorting the veg in to different dishes and today I attempted cutting beans with him (with a normal table knife, not a sharp knife). The cutting didn’t go well and I could see him starting to get overly frustrated so before things blew up, I changed his task and that worked. He also helped me peal the carrots (with us both holding the peeler) and to put the peel in the bin. All tasks he can do and that will keep him amused and busy. Of course for safety purposes, make sure tasks that involve anything sharp or possibly dangerous are supervised at all times.

Last but not least

  • Remember to have fun! Cooking together should be a fun task. It can teach children to build a positive association to cooking and food and can be a great tool in encouraging fussy eaters to try new things.

Great dishes that children can help you cook…

pizza – he/she can help you roll out the pizza base and choose what toppings to use.

Spaghetti and meatballs – children will love rolling up the meatballs!

Savoury pies – let your child help choose what ingredients will go in the pie, let them help roll out the dough and make a great shape with leftover dough and a cutter to go on top of the pie.

Sausage and mash – Milo loves to mash potato and that can keep him busy for aaaaaages. Be prepared to make a little extra as a certain amount of the mash is likely to end up on the floor!

What do your children love to cook? What tips would you give to parents who would like to get their children involved in cooking?


Sally Whittle is founder of the Tots100, Foodies100, BlogSummit and the MAD Blog Awards. When she's not working, she can be found blogging at Who's the Mummy, or having fun with her 8 year old daughter, Flea.

Discussion2 Comments

  1. My son already pulls up a chair to help me prepare food. He loves trying to peel (unsuccessfully), and if i don’t watch out, he’s grabbing knives and jabbing at food. Baking cakes is great as he loves whisking and stirring (plus he doesn’t understand the whole licking the spoon thing, so I still get to do that). He’s just under 2, so I’m hoping that he’ll continue to enjoy cooking as he gets older