Family cooking together

Your Guide to Cooking with Kids

Updated December 2, 2016 . AmFam Team

Does cooking with kids make you nervous? No worries! Here are some tips to help your little ones have a fun and safe time in the kitchen.

Curious minds and helping hands, kids love to be part of the fun. And odds are they want to help with whatever it is you’re doing around the house — especially in the kitchen. After all, there’s nothing like rolling up their sleeves, getting their hands dirty and using their creativity to make a delicious snack!

So, if your little ones are interested in cooking, take these steps to get them started in the kitchen and enjoy the memories in the making:

Start small. Ease your kids into cooking by starting off with something easy, like a PB&J sandwich or veggies and dip. This is a good way to gauge their interest and show them the basics.

Plan ahead. Once your kiddos have graduated from the simpler recipes, it’s time to let them help you out on a bigger scale. So plan ahead by choosing an age appropriate recipe that they’re capable of helping with and do any prep needed ahead of time — cutting vegetables, thawing meat, heating the oven, etc.

Expect the mess. Cooking is always messy. But adding kids to the equation? There’s really no way to avoid spills and splatters. So dress them in clothes you won’t mind getting dirty and ready your kitchen with clean towels. Remember not to get frustrated — have fun now, clean up later!

Explain hygiene. It’s important that kids know to wash their hands before cooking and learn what foods are ok to handle raw. Take time beforehand to teach them the ins and outs of kitchen hygiene and food safety so they know best practices.

Find teachable moments. Cooking is fun, but it’s also the perfect time for learning! As you’re prepping the food, find ways to sneak in a lesson or two. It’s always good to explain where their produce comes from, what foods are healthy and even the history of any cultural dishes. This way you’ll satisfy their curiosity and gain the perfect little helper!

Practice safety. Boiling water and sharp knives pose a hazard to your little ones. So keep any tools they’re not ready for out of reach and make sure they know what not to touch. And remember to keep an eye on them at all times.

Include them in the cleanup. Nothing fun comes without a little cleanup. So teach your kiddos to tidy up after themselves by having them dry dishes as you wash, or sweep up any stray crumbs. It’s good to start them on this responsible habit early.

Be patient and have fun. It’ll likely take a while for your kids to get a handle on the whole cooking process. And making a recipe with them will probably take longer than when you do it on your own — but that’s ok! Be patient, relax and just have fun. It’s all about the experience for them (Opens in a new tab), not necessarily the outcome.

Cooking with kids is a rewarding process for both sides. They’ll have a blast following in your footsteps and you’ll enjoy watching them learn new skills. So take these steps, put your nerves aside and invite your little helper into the kitchen. You’ll have a culinary sidekick in no time!

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