Kids in the Kitchen

Food preparation, like reading and writing, is a necessary life skill that often falls wayward for busy parents. Teaching children to cook enables them to safely handle, prepare nourishing foods and become health-wise consumers of food all the while allowing them to practice a variety of skills. Reading a recipe allows them to learn new words and practice reading in addition to being able to identify foods and learn their qualities and desirable traits when gathering or shopping for ingredients. Other important skills they can practice by cooking include measuring, counting, timing, sequencing and following directions. A kitchen is a hands-on science laboratory in your house with a food science edge including such experiments as dough rising, eggs coagulating when heated, sugar dissolving in water and even the browning of meat. Additionally, when children are ready and able to learn skills such as slicing, pouring, rolling dough, shaping foods like patties, they develop and improve small-muscle movement and hand-eye coordination.

Basic rules for involving kids in the kitchen:

  • Match the recipe or preparation with your child’s skills and abilities.
  • Always prepare a meal with them for at least the first time.
  • Utilize illustrated cookbooks specifically for children.
  • Always review food safety tips and safety precautions in a child’s cookbook.
  • Make hand washing a rule prior to handling food along with learning about preventing cross-contamination and utilizing a meat thermometer.
  • Encourage kids to choose the ingredients and/or recipes that they desire.

Including children in family food preparation allows busy families to spend important time with each other and increase a child’s social and emotional development. Children feel great about themselves after successfully cooking a meal and sharing it with others. It allows the exploration of different cultures and cuisines. Depending on the child’s age, they may be able to help with the menu planning, shopping, preparation and cleanup. Kitchen skills are more than just fun, they are necessary in raising healthy children who eventually become competent independent young adults.