How to get your Child Cooking

How to get Your Child Cooking

You can involve your child at any age. Keep in mind their abilities as they are constantly developing. Assign a task that your child can complete independently. And make sure to allow extra time for them. Have a look at Eat Right Ontario's secrets to success.

A few tips before you get cooking with your children:

  • Keep it simple.
  • Select easy recipes with few ingredients.
  • Read and review the recipe together.
  • If working with more than one child, make sure they each get their turn to participate in the steps.
  • Involve them from start to finish. It is important that they see ingredients in both a natural state and in a completed meal.
  • Safety first: always mention that it is not a race and going slowly is okay.
  • Note that by age 12, youth are responsible enough to handle most kitchen tasks.

What to teach at each age

Keep in mind that each child is different. The tasks for each age listed are there to guide you, and not to restrict your child's development. Confidence and practice will help your child build their cooking skills. They may master some skills faster than others. Use your judgement to decide which tasks are appropriate for your child. Find more information on development and abilities for each age from Eat Right Ontario

Tasks for:

2 to 3 years old
Young children learn through their senses - sight, touch, smell, hear, and taste. Supervise them while they try these simple tasks:
  • Wash vegetables and fruits
  • Wipe tables
  • Tear salad greens
  • Break apart broccoli or cauliflower
  • Carry and wash unbreakable dishes
  • Add items to a bowl
  • Mix and pour ingredients at room temperature
  • Find ingredients and sorting them
  • Apply soft spreads
  • Pick fresh herb leaves off the stem
3 to 5 years old
At this age, motor skills, independence and the ability to focus can be very different from child to child. This is an age where children may be pickier with foods. Children are more likely to try and eat foods they helped select and prepare.
  • Mash soft foods, bananas, cooked beans, potatoes
  • Peel foods e.g. hard boiled eggs, fruits, shelling shrimp
  • Count foods
  • Assemble foods:  making a simple sandwich or pizza, trail mix
  • Weigh, measure, add and stir ingredients
  • Cut soft foods with a strong plastic knife e.g. mushrooms, strawberries, cheese, banana
  • Beat eggs
  • Set and clear the table
  • Mix - using either a spoon or hands to mix together ingredients
  • Roll, shape and cut dough using plastic cutters and a small rolling pin
6 to 8 years old

At this age they can follow simple steps for recipes and are able to share and take turns. Continue to build from the tasks appropriate for 2 to 5 years old.

  • Learn cooking vocabulary (mince, dice, chop, sift, beat, grill, broil, etc)
  • Cracking eggs
  • Toss salad ingredients together with salad dressing
  • Reading simple recipes and labels with help
  • Fill and level measuring spoons and cups
  • Grating cheese, carrots
  • Setting the table - encourage them to cherish the ritual of family meals
  • Cutting with scissors - if you can get smaller scissors or children's scissors, use them to snip herbs
  • Beating and folding
  • Greasing and lining a cake tin or tray
  • Peel oranges or hard-boiled eggs - make sure eggs aren't too hot
9 to 11 years old
When children reach 8 and up, they can start to get involved with planning and undertake activities with a bit more independence. Supervision is still key due to the number of hazards in the kitchen but take a hand off approach where possible. Generally kids at this age are more coordinated and able to understand how to use appliances safely.
  • Work with simple kitchen equipment with supervision e.g. peeler, grater, toaster, blender or can opener, microwave, handheld mixer
  • Make their own lunches
  • Follow a simple recipe
  • Use the stove, with supervision, to make basic recipes: boiled eggs, pasta, omelets, pancakes, quesadillas, soups or grilled cheese
  • Cut with a sharper knife with supervision -- children should learn how to form their hand into a claw to keep fingertips out of danger, take a look at the knife skills video
  • Write a grocery list
  • Wash dishes
  • Decide what is needed to balance out a meal using foods from all 4 food groups
  • Use a thermometer and timer 

Want to speak with a Registered Dietitian? 

Call Health Connect Ontario and ask to speak with a Registered Dietitian. Available Monday-Friday 9am-5pm by calling 811 (TTY: 1-866-797-0007) or starting a chat  

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