Dec 01, 2022

KOERNER: Children in the kitchen

Posted Dec 01, 2022 12:00 AM
written by: Monique Koerner - Family and Community Wellness Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District.
written by: Monique Koerner - Family and Community Wellness Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District.

Cooking with children can be fun and exhausting! However, taking the time and patience to cook with children has many benefits. Just about every developmental domain can be strengthened through having your child help in the kitchen. Skills children learn in the kitchen include math, reading, fine motor, following directions, sequencing, cultures, language, basic chemistry, and nutrition. Cooking is a life skill that they will need when they become adults. That is quite a list! Cooking also stimulates all five senses and that is how children learn! When children help in the kitchen they are more likely to try new foods because they helped to make them. Have your picky eater choose a recipe and make it together.

How do you go about cooking with children? A few strategies include: plan, allow plenty of time, use child-friendly recipes, have patience, have a sense of adventure and humor, and practice good hygiene by washing hands frequently. When planning ahead, make sure you have everything you need and set up as much ahead of time based on the age of the child. The more organized you are the less stressful it will be. Pick a few days throughout the holiday season to mark on your calendar so you have the time to devote to the activity. By allowing plenty of time you and the children aren’t rushed. If your child is fairly young, consider their attention span and prepare some things ahead of time. Expect a mess! It’s inevitable so just go with the flow. The children can help clean up after themselves, which is also a life skill! This can be a special time of bonding with your child and creating those special times that they will always remember. And don’t forget to take some pictures!

Here is a list of a few tasks that children can do in the kitchen. As the parent, you know your child(ren) and their skills the best. Use your own judgement and stay near so you can help them be safe.

Wash fruits and vegetables

Sort and put away food

Tear lettuce

Arrange food on a serving dish

Wipe counters and table

Wash unbreakable items

Measure ingredients

Sift dry ingredients


Get ingredients from the pantry or refrigerator

Set the table

Make a center piece


Pour Liquids

When children are young choose something with fewer ingredients and simple directions. As children get older and learn more skills in the kitchen they can make side dishes for meals. Teenagers can also help by cooking entire meals once in a while. It is good practice for when they are on their own. Working and producing a product that a child is proud of increases their self-esteem.

So, go ahead and make some memories this year and enjoy some time in the kitchen with your children. Remember it’s not about the end product but the fun and time spent together.