Cooking for Kids

By Summer Banks
Cooking in the kitchen is not just an adult activity. If you learn how to cook when you’re a kid, you might be surprised at how many delicious things you can make. Families that prepare meals as a team can have fun spending time together while they cook. When you cook with your family, you can also focus on preparing nutritious foods that are good for your body. Combining good nutrition with cooking skills can be an excellent way to eat a healthy diet. Menu-planning as a family also helps ensure that everyone will like the meals prepared.

You might think that the youngest kids can’t do much in the kitchen, but the toddler years are a great time to begin learning and practicing cooking skills. Little ones can learn basic math in the kitchen, such as counting. Working with adults and older siblings in the kitchen is also a good way to develop listening and vocabulary skills. While toddlers can be picky eaters, spending time in the kitchen might be helpful for encouraging young kids to try new foods. Having helped prepare a meal can give a toddler a sense of ownership, which might make it more likely that the little one will happily eat what’s been made.

Once you reach the elementary school grades, you’re ready for more kitchen responsibilities. Kids in this age group can learn about kitchen safety, using kitchen tools and gadgets, and following recipes. Learning cooking skills is also important for kids who want to be able to make their own food, so this is a great age to learn basic kitchen techniques such as measuring ingredients, cracking eggs, stirring, and cutting soft items with nylon safety knives. With a focus on nutrition and a well-rounded diet, grade-school kids can learn about healthy foods and building balanced meals. Children can also be encouraged to choose recipes they would like to prepare in the kitchen. When you have recipes you know how to make, you might be more likely to spend time making and eating these homemade foods instead of reaching for junk food.

Older kids can become talented cooks, especially if they’ve spent time in the kitchen since early childhood. Kids in middle school and high school may be ready to prepare more complicated recipes. Learning knife skills is an important part of cooking, and older kids should know how to safely use and handle knives. The general rules for knife safety include holding the knife securely, making sure that the cutting board doesn’t move, curling the fingertips back away from the blade, keeping your eyes on the knife at all times, and cutting slowly and carefully, without rushing. If you drop a knife, always move out of the way and let it hit the floor: Never try to catch it, as you might cut yourself. Cooking foods to the proper temperature is also important. If cooked food is not cooked enough, dangerous bacteria can remain in the food, which can make people sick. The “danger zone” for cooked food is between 40 degrees and 140 degrees Fahrenheit; always try to keep food hotter than 140 degrees or colder than 40 degrees. By learning safe food temperatures and knowing how to use a food thermometer, everyone can make sure that the foods they make will be both delicious and safe to eat. As older kids become more comfortable in the kitchen, they might even try making a full meal for the family.

Activities for Toddlers

Activities for Elementary-Age Children

Activities for Middle and High School Students

About the Author:

Summer Banks, Director of Content at Dietspotlight, has researched over 5000 weight-loss programs, pills, shakes and diet plans. Previously, she managed 15 supplement brands, worked with doctors specializing in weight loss and completed coursework in nutrition at Stanford University. full bio.