September 13 is national Kids Take Over the Kitchen Day, and to celebrate we want to talk about ways that your kids, even littles, can help you in the kitchen. Teaching kids to cook and to enjoy cooking is a gift that will last their entire lifetime. They will use the skills they learn as kids nearly every day of their lives.
You may be surprised what kids are capable of in the kitchen from a young age. But with rules, supervision, and a little trust, you can be acting as sous chef to your child in no time! Keep in mind that the suggestions we make for ages are not hard and fast rules, each child is different. Some kids will be able to work ahead of their age group, while others will need more time to grasp the skill and maturity level.
18 months +
This is a great age to start your littles off helping in the kitchen. Obviously, they won’t be as fast or neat as you, so it’s best start off on a day that you aren’t trying to rush out the door. Kids this age are great at mixing ingredients, slicing and spreading with a butter knife or jam knife, pouring dry ingredients with your supervision, washing veggies, and more. Make sure that they never come close to a hot oven or stove, and they don’t mix ingredients that are too hot. They can also be really great at tearing lettuce for a salad.
Kids this age will love to help and get a lot of self-esteem from helping you in the kitchen. You will have to give a lot of supervision and instruction, but you can start off good habits that will be helpful in the future, like learning how to hold a butter knife properly. That way, when they step up, they will already know some of the basics.
Letting a toddler hold a knife seems like a disaster waiting to happen, but many experts recommend it. It’s even part of the Montessori practical skills curriculum. Start off by letting kids practice cutting soft food like butter and bananas with a dull knife, like a butter knife. After they have mastered this skill, try a crinkle cutter knife. This kind of knife is shaped like a hair comb, and has a handle above the blade, to keep all fingers well away from the dangerous part. Again, make sure to go over rules and supervise carefully. With this type of knife, kids should be able to chop carrots, onions, potatoes, and more.
Your child will also be able to help you crack eggs, stir ingredients, make sandwiches, and more complicated tasks. A great way to get your child involved in cooking is to let him smell and taste spices and herbs and possibly help you choose how to use them in cooking.
At this age, you can start letting your kids cook easy things on the stove with close supervision. Make sure, that you are always in the kitchen with your child when she is using the stove, even if she cooks all the time. Cooking scrambled eggs, stir-fries, sautéing vegetables, and other light tasks are perfect for this age group.
You may decide your child is ready to use the oven, some children are. Make sure your child is long enough and strong enough to reach inside and pull things out without being burnt. Baking cookies, banana bread, pie, cake, roast chicken, and other treats are perfect for this age group.
Around this age, depending on the maturity and cooking experience of your child, he may be ready to start cooking and baking without or with light supervision. Ask yourself if he follows rules and safety instructions when in the kitchen, if he reacts quickly if there is an unexpected accident, and if you feel comfortable letting him cook without you directly watching.
Cooking with Your Kids
Kids love cooking and can learn a lot of science and math elements from being in the kitchen with you. They can also learn a lifetime skill that can bring a lot of joy to their lives.