Cooking with Kids

Getting kids into the kitchen is an important way to help them learn about healthy foods, meal preparation, and food safety. Having your children help with meals when they are young will prepare them to choose and cook healthy foods for themselves when they are older. Cooking together is also a great way to get more time with your kids!

father and daughter washing hands

When cooking with kids, remember that they may need more instructions since they have less experience. It’s especially important to remind them to practice food safety, like washing their hands after touching raw foods, keeping different food groups separate, and cooking meats to the correct temperature

An easy way to do this is to include food safety instructions in your recipe. On written recipes, make notes that remind you to wash your hands, sanitize your knife and cutting board after they touch raw foods, and note the correct cooking temperature for the food used in the recipe. If you are giving your child verbal instructions, make these steps part of the process instead of just telling them before starting. 

You may also need to remind kids to clean their cooking space as they go. This includes throwing away fruit and vegetable peels and turning the heat down if things are cooking too  quickly. Kids, especially young children, don’t always notice the same things as adults!

If your child is not a big fan of cooking, try some of these fun ideas to keep them interested and engaged:

  • Make it a competition. If you have multiple children close to the same age, have them each make the same recipe and compare the results. Or, have the kids team up and compete against you. 
  • Let them be creative. Challenge your kids to do something surprising with the dish, like add food coloring or include a different seasoning. Kids are full of ideas and learn by trying, so let them get a little funky (with supervision, of course!)
  • Give age-appropriate tasks. When kids help you in the kitchen, give them something interesting to do. Older kids can chop, peel, wash, and cook. Younger kids can stir, pour, measure, and mix. You can also ask elementary-age kids to read you the recipe. This lets them practice reading and helps them learn measurements.
  • Choose a theme. Have older kids plan and cook a meal to fit a theme they choose. They could go with a favorite TV show, animal, color, or even a pop star or viral trend!

However you choose to involve your kids in cooking, the important part is that they are involved! Teaching your children how to navigate the kitchen and prepare food safely is a valuable lesson. With time, practice, and supervision, they will learn to be great chefs and helpers. Happy Culinary Arts Month!

-Bethany Helm, Student Employee

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Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP)

North Carolina State University
Agricultural and Human Sciences Department

Cooperative Extension at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University
College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES)