I very much remember the first time I saw a promo for MasterChef Junior. All I could imagine, at the time, were burn injuries and a ton of Gordon Ramsay-led tears. Luckily, I was wrong. It was filled with kids in the 8 to 12-year-old age bracket who seriously knew what they were doing. Many times, their introductions on the show mentioned they’ve been cooking since the age of three. It may seem hard to fathom, but after a few episodes in, you might also be wondering how to teach kids to cook. You also might wonder what cooking for kids looks like. On the show, contestants had a deep knowledge of food that wasn’t pizza or some healthy snacks. If you want to teach kids how to cook, do you also need a similar knowledge of fine cuisine?
When you’re figuring out how to teach basic cooking skills, you should start the way you start most hobbies — on easy mode. Before you can dream up kids cooking activities involving a final presentation of a lobster frittata, they need to learn how to make peanut butter and jelly. Here’s how to start your little one’s culinary journey.
How to Teach Kids to Cook
Kids can be given simple tasks in the kitchen early on to make them feel important and appreciated in the room. Knowing they can participate in cooking meals is a big deal. If you adopt a “The kitchen is only for moms and dads” routine early on to avoid them from turning a stove knob, they may never feel openly accepted there.
When teaching kids to cook, show them that cleaning up is also part of preparing a meal. Explain which soaps and sponges are best for grease and which meals require pots to soak before washing. And before inviting your kiddo into the kitchen, have a game plan and try to teach two things per lesson. Make sure the recipes you choose are hands on and less “sit and wait” kinds of dishes. This helps keeps kids engaged.
Safety precautions are important, but it’s easier to continue reinforcing the lesson that cooking can contain hot (and also sharp) elements. Good kids cooking activities for younger children include stirring, gathering ingredients, using cookie cutters, and spreading materials like frosting or butter. Older kids can help with more, and might even be able to start preparing simple foods for themselves.
Cooking Tasks for Kids by Age
Cooking can be a fun and smooth process when tasks cater to each child’s age group. We’ve broken it down by each category so you can find cooking duties for your child, no matter how old they are.
Duties for two to three-year-olds
- Setting the table
- Picking the leaves off stems or breaking the lettuce
Duties for six to seven-year-olds
- Greasing the pans with a spray or a stick of butter
- Using a small knife, to cut veggies
- Pouring liquids into a bowl or container
- Peeling potatoes with a peeler
- Draining and rinsing canned beans
- Scooping avocados
Duties for eight to 12-year-olds
*As kids get older, they become a bit more helpful and independent. The tasks below are a bit more advanced, but with your help your little one can handle them.
- Put bread in the toaster
- Follow recipes with adult supervision
- Help put away groceries
- Blend foods with adult supervision
- Make and pack their own lunch (just double check to make sure their lunchbox isn’t filled with fruit snacks)
- Make a sandwich on their own
Recipes for Kids to Cook
Trying to figure out where to start? There are plenty of recipes for kids to cook that will help them form a good platform for cooking more advanced dishes. Kids’ recipes don’t require too much heat. Usually, if heat is needed, it’d come from a microwave, toaster, or another appliance that has an automated shut-off.
Good recipes for kids to cook include bagel sandwiches, using a toaster, lunch meats, and a spread like mayonnaise or mustard. Kids in elementary school should feel comfortable making basic sandwiches and snacks. A peanut butter and banana sandwich is an easy recipe for any child to master. Eggs are also easy. They can be scrambled in the microwave for a quick yet somewhat nutritious breakfast, or hard-boiled, which may require a bit of adult supervision for the first few rounds.
One-ingredient banana ice cream is also very easy for children to master. Banana ice cream only requires bananas and a cold freezer.
Cooking Lessons for Kids
Looking to possibly invest in cooking lessons for kids? You’re not alone. Learning how to cook is a huge skill that’ll serve your child throughout their entire life, so it’s a good thing to spend money on. RadDish offers an experience online where children between the ages of 4 and 14 can learn more about cooking with ingredients shipped to their homes. Tiny Chefs also offers a great online course.
You can also ask your friends who are into cooking. Surely, a fun dinner together monitored by your child will give them a personalized lesson for free. Children learn best from people they admire. If your mom happens to be a wonderful chef, surely you can plan a dinner-planing date, where your mom and child work together to create a delicious experience for your family.
When figuring out how to teach kids to cook, you’ll have to make the experience fun for your child. And cooking can be a lot of fun. Don’t stress the small mistakes, and try to go at their pace. Aside from being a great skill to learn, cooking is also one of the most wonderful forms of self-expression. Let your child experiment with which tastes and flavors complement each other.