After having my first child I knew that I wanted them to have a safe and healthy relationship with food. I knew the importance of understanding how to care for your body and a lot of that starts in the kitchen. As your child grows you are probably looking for ways to start cooking with your kids or to get your kids involved in the kitchen. My 3 and 4-year-old both LOVE getting involved in the kitchen so I thought I would share my best tips with you! If you read anything that impacts you, please share this with your friends and family.
Note: All children develop at a different rate so your child may be at a different developmental level. Some of these tips may not be developmentally appropriate for your child. It’s important we keep our little ones safe so use discretion when providing them a task. And be sure to monitor them at all times, especially if you have adult tools near where they are working. (Watch the knives, mama!)
Why Should You Encourage Your Kids To Get Involved In the Kitchen
I want you to take a moment and think about what life was like for you growing up. Were you a picky eater? Did you enjoy mealtime? Were you part of the meal prep process? I was personally a very picky eater. However, I do remember that when I was involved in the cooking process, those were the meals I enjoyed more.
Inviting your children into the process of mealtime can instill confidence, empowerment, and excitement around making healthier choices. If you want your child to be open to trying new foods and flavors, the first step is inviting them into the kitchen. You may find that even the pickiest of eaters are more willing to try something he/she had a hand in versus when it just shows up on the table and is foreign to them.
I have specific memories as a child of picking green beans from my Grandma’s garden. I picked them, helped washing them, and prepared them to be cooked. Then, of course, we ate them! Memories like these are ones I want to create for my kids, and the first step is to invite them into the kitchen.
How Your Kids Can Be Involved In The Kitchen
Let’s break down a few simple ways you can get your kids involved in the kitchen. Simple is best in my opinion. Don’t overthink it or stress. Take it one step at a time and even if the time in the kitchen lasts moments, celebrate those moments. Let’s go!
Invite Them Into The Kitchen When It’s Safe And Practical
Even if there is nothing they can help with yet, having your kids in the kitchen includes them in the process and makes them comfortable with what happens in the kitchen. Inviting them into the kitchen brings them along on the journey of food prep to cooking to eating. Giving them this experience, in my opinion, will spark more of an interest as they grow and will show how simple home-cooked meals are.
When it comes to our young children, sometimes I simply set my kids on the counter so they can be involved in the process. (We do have a cool kitchen standing stool but our kitchen is a little small for it right now) I will talk to them about what I’m doing, ask them questions about the foods, ask what they like, get their opinions on what to add next, etc. Basically, the goal is to simply create positive conversation and a positive experience in the kitchen. As a busy mom, I know it can be overwhelming or tempting to ban the kids from the kitchen when you cook so maybe try it during breakfast or lunch when the vibe is a little more low-key.
This is a very important first step to encouraging your child(ren) to enjoy being in the kitchen.
Give Them Age Appropriate Tasks
If you feel your child(ren) are mature enough to handle some tasks in the kitchen (and kids as young as 1.5 could, in theory, participate with supervision!) then I encourage you to give them responsibility in the process.
A few things we have our kids do (and they truly love) is spin lettuce or cut veggies. Those are two tasks that are safe, incredibly helpful to me, and give them a sense of satisfaction. We use a salad spinner like this and some kid metal knives from IKEA for mushrooms/tofu/etc. It’s nothing fancy but a simple way you can start to get your kids involved in the kitchen. If your kids are a little older, you might consider trying kid-friendly plastic knives or nylon knives.
Younger children can participate in other ways that may not be as important to your process but will still empower them. Tasks could include sorting silverware in the drawer, stacking cups, or counting vegetables. Even if it doesn’t directly play a part in the meal process, these activities invite them to be part of the meal prep process and allow them to feel part of the experience.
Other Ways You Can Get Your Kids Involved In The Kitchen
- Harvest produce from the garden for that meal
- Pour dry pasta into a bowl before I put it in the boiling water
- Turn on the blender or even put the ingredients into the blender
- Mix ingredients in a bowl, stir seasonings and/or sauces, etc.
- Collect bowls from the cupboard that you plan to use (if they are not easily breakable)
- Help select the tools you need for the meal (measuring cups, utensils, ingredients, etc)
- Measure out ingredients – this is something our almost 5-year-old likes to help with and gives him a great sense of accomplishment and is a great skill for him to learn!
- Set the table for mealtime
From a young age, you can empower your child to enjoy the kitchen experience. We want to raise humans who know how to boil water or properly cut a vegetable. These are skills that many teens don’t know simply because they have not been invited into the kitchen. I believe that establishing comfort with the kitchen at a young age not only will instill essential skills but it will also encourage healthier eating habits… at least that’s my hope for our children.
Final Tip For Parents
Remember to be patient during this process. There will likely be spills and inaccuracies but that happens to all of us, children and adults. If a spill happens, have grace and remind your child that we spill too. If they add too much of something, help them adjust. The goal here is to encourage a positive experience and for them to learn a little along the way. Especially for our younger kids, they learn through doing and even something as simple as wiping up a spill is a learning moment and something they will (hopefully) keep with them as they grow.
How do you bring your kids into the kitchen? What changes have you seen in them as they have grown?
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