9 Great Reasons to Cook with Your Kids

child-wash-dishesThis post is the first part of a series on cooking with kids. See also:

How to Cook with a Baby in the House

How to Cook with a Toddler in the House

Cooking with Preschoolers: Distraction or Interaction?

A child’s strongest need, even more than food or affection, is to imitate adults. That is how the ygrow up and become independent. But all too often, we relegate children off to the playroom while we do the “important” things. I know we are all short on time and it’s often easier to do things on our own, but getting your kids into the kitchen at a very young age pays off in the long run.

This post was inspired by a mom who complained on Twitter that her daughter was not in preschool long enough for her to finish cooking. Children are a part of our lives, and for most of us that involves cooking.

Kids want to do what they see you doing. Take advantage of this at every opportunity, and make sure they are imitating the right things!

  1. Cooking with kids provides endless opportunities to talk about health and food choices. You can pass on your religious and ethnic traditions too.
  2. There is no better way to learn than by observing. Kids can see how you hold a can opener, rinse off a glass, empty a pot, or flip over a pancake.
  3. Practice language skills, by describing what you are doing and asking and answering questions.
  4. Kids learn math concepts like counting, comparing, timing, measuring, weighing, logistics and more.
  5. Kids experience different colors, tastes, textures sounds and smells in the kitchen. Point out the smell of finished bread and burnt onions, or the thickness of the cake batter. One of my kids could identify a dozen different spices by smell.
  6. Kids learn safety skills like using potholders, holding knives correctly, and cleaning up spills.
  7. You become more organized. You’ll need to plan which tasks are suitable for kids, and which to do alone. You’re more likely to keep cooking spaces clear and put things away promptly when kids are around.
  8. You’re teaching kids a process. Some kids grow  up thinking that meals magically appear on the table.
  9. The sooner you start involving your kids in cooking, the faster they will be capable of really helping.

Most kitchen skills can be taught to preschoolers. Sure you want to play it safe, but being overly cautious isn’t good either. I’ll give  ideas for kids of different ages, in a separate post.



Ten Tips for Avoiding Kitchen Accidents

How to Cook for a Family with a New Baby





Ten Kid-Friendly Foods that Use Up Leftovers



Series: Feeding Babies Frugally

Photo credit: clogozm


  1. I couldn’t agree more – my daughter has been helping me cook from about 18 months old. It started with “helping” stir batter and carry ingredients to the counter. Now, at a little more than two years old, she’s able to crack an egg and peel carrots (which was not my idea – the hubby gave her a peeler and off she went). She stands right beside us on a stool cooking on Friday mornings and we couldn’t be happier (we keep the kids home from daycare on Fridays to spend more time with them).
    Our little one loves to look on from his highchair and play with measuring spoons. Gotta start them early…

  2. Thanks, Kelli! I enjoy stories like that.

  3. Yes, absolutely! It was a revelation of sorts to me when I figured out that it’s not only okay to do housework while the baby is awake, it’s actually good for both of us. I am not so stressed out and restless and he enjoys seeing what I’m doing. (Don’t laugh. First time mom.) I’ve been cooking with him since he was about 18 months – sometimes he’s interested and sometimes not. At three he usually likes to help. He comes running when he sees me getting out eggs – he loves to crack them open!

  4. Here’s a benefit with an older kid: my 11 year old decided around a month ago that she wanted to make Fri. night dinner and invite her friends (twin sisters)and their parents. Now she’s cooking up a storm. I supervise and help choose doable recipes but she is pretty independent. I also find that she is more adventurous about what she’ll eat when she cooks it–for example, that 1st Friday night, she made Saigon Chicken. when she makes the vegetables, she’s more likely to eat them!

  5. BookishIma, the best thing about cooking with a baby awake is that you can save the sleeping time for something else, like reading or sleeping.

  6. I agree with Miriam. When my kids cook with me they are more willing to try and taste new food.

  7. I’m also totally in favor – my kids have been active kitchen participants since they were babies. Now that they’re older (aged 10-14) they are confident cooks and truly are very helpful – we all make food for Shabat together. This obviously makes things easier for me, but it’s also nice for all of us to feel that we’ve contributed to our weekly culinary adventure – cooperation at its best 🙂

  8. Ms. Krieger says

    All these positive stories are really good to hear. My daughter is just shy of two, and she adores ‘helping’. She tries to fold the laundry, she helps unload the dish washer, she wipes her hands and tray off after eating, and lately she has started to help me cook. But so much of what I do involves knives that right now I try to give her tiny, safe tasks. Putting chopped vegetables into a bowl, stirring a batter. I tried showing her how I sautee food in a pan but she became enraged when I would not let her stand at the stove by herself.

    Oy. I will think of you all and keep the faith with her helping. Cracking eggs is a nice, manageable task I hadn’t thought of. I’ll try it!

  9. Ms. Krieger says

    and I am really looking forward to those posts on age-appropriate kid tasks!

  10. I love cooking with my kids, especially my 4-year-old son. It takes more time, but it is very rewarding for both of us. I usually cook by instinct and don’t measure much, but when I have little helpers I put things in bowls or measuring cups, so even if they use their own judgement with salt, herbs, or sesame seeds, they can only dump in so much. I also ask my son if he can tell me how much I already put in (like eggs) and if he thinks we need more. Most dinner recipes are flexible and I think it is good for kids to gain confidence in their own judgement. Of course, good recipe following skills are great, too.

    • Yosefa, that made me think. I improvise mostly but don’t think to tell my kids what I’m doing except in a very general way. I especially like the idea of asking whether we need more of something. My teens and I talk about that, the younger ones not so much.


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