Want a great way to ensure your kids develop healthy eating habits? Get them involved in mealtime! You can teach your kids to cook and prepare meals at almost any age.
Young children (under 6)
Younger children might be too little to do much in the kitchen, but they’re the perfect age to learn about good eating habits. You can teach them about the four food groups and how to put together a balanced meal. Have your child watch while you prepare a meal and explain what you’re doing as you go along. When your youngster is ready, you can also let them help you while you cook. Small fingers can peel garlic and onions, snap beans, husk corn and make hamburger patties. And you’ll be able to keep an eye on the little ones while making dinner!
Kids of this age can do more on their own and have an eager, “I can do it myself” attitude. Start them off on meal projects they can complete alone.
- Salads and raw vegetables: Kids can wash and tear up lettuce, peel carrots and potatoes, and shell peas and beans. Fruit salad is another fun variation.
- Sandwiches: Teach them some good combinations (like salami and cheese with mustard, or mozzarella, basil and tomato) and let them come up with their own creations!
- Pizzas: Kids will love the artistic possibilities inherent in pizza-making. Let them grate cheese, add tomatoes or tomato sauce, and put on toppings to create their own pizza masterpiece.
Ages 11 and up
Now that they’re older, you can give your kids some more advanced lessons in cooking.
- Chopping: Teach your kids how to use knives safely (check out one of the books below if you’re not sure how) and watch them get turned on to veggies!
- The basics of stove-top cooking: Give them a tour around the stove and the different methods of cooking they can try using different pots, pans and utensils.
- Boiling: Teach them how to cook pasta until tender, how to boil potatoes, and how to steam vegetables.
- Grilling/using a griddle: Show them how to make the perfect grilled cheese, or whip up a batch of pancake mix and have your child pour the batter and flip the flapjacks.
- Frying and sautéing: With a little patience and supervision, your kids could be turning out delicious stir-fries in minutes.
- Baking: Kids love to contribute to big family gatherings. Help them learn to bake cookies or cupcakes, or how to make a light flaky piecrust. Grandma will be so impressed!
For more information on teaching your kids to cook, check out these books:
- Cooking with Children: 15 Lessons for Children, Age 7 and Up, Who Really Want to Learn to Cook; Marion Cunningham, Emily Lisker
- Children’s Quick and Easy Cookbook; Angela Wilkes
- Kids Cooking: Scrumptious Recipes for Cooks Ages 9 to 13 (Williams Sonoma Kitchen Library); Time-Life Books (editor), et al
- Honest Pretzels and 64 Other Amazing Recipes for Cooks Ages 8 & Up; Mollie Katzen
- Cooking with Kids for Dummies; Kate Heyhoe, Mollie Katzen