10 Cooking Skills Your Kids Should Know
I do believe one of the most important parenting lessons for your kids is giving them the confidence they need to do hard things! Kids do not become confident when they are asked to do things too simple for their age. Asking my 12 year old to tie her shoes, is not going to instill confidence! Asking her to make dinner for the family on the other hand, pushes her to do hard things that builds her self-esteem, and helps her feel important. Kids can do hard things!
When Erica was about 7, she decided she wanted to learn how to cook! I had been having the conversation with her: “When you are a mom, you are going to need to know how to cook!” So, she pulled out an old spiral bound notebook, put page numbers throughout the ENTIRE thing, and asked me to spell each and every ingredient for our salad (the recipe she is holding was a bread recipe). Then she started an index. I thought it was so stinkin cute, I wanted to rush out and buy her her very own CUTE recipe binder where she can collect her favorite recipes until she leaves home. I resisted however, and decided to let her do it her own way. She doesn’t know any better.
Kids need to learn cooking skills. It is more difficult and time consuming to let your kids help you in the kitchen. But studies show, if they do, they are more likely to eat healthier, and when they leave home they will prepare healthier meals for their own families. And the cycle of health continues.. I was reading in the paper a few years ago, our generation (today’s mom’s and dad’s) do not know the basic steps of cooking. That we complain we have no time to be in the kitchen to make food for our families, yet we spend an average of 4 hours in front of the TV a day. So, let’s get back into the kitchen with our kids! I promise,they will not only learn vital skills, but you’ll be preparing them for life when they aren’t under your roof any more!
These are the 10 things I felt were important for my kids to learn, and which they’ve mastered beautifully.
- Make toast– I do believe this was the very first “cooking” skill my kids have mastered, and now, well, they are pretty much professionals at it.
- Measure things– I haven’t met one child (mine or anyone else’s) who doesn’t like to help with measuring things! I love turning this into a math lesson as well. I will say, if you are using a 1 cup, but the recipe says to use 1/2 cup, what should you do?
- Press Garlic– Since my kids were little, they’ve loved pressing garlic through our garlic press. If you don’t have one, you should get one! They are great for adding flavor to any roasted veggies.
- Make their own lunch! I have been a big proponent of kids making their own lunches from the time they are in kindergarten or even before! I’ve had parents complain about lunch making in the mornings, and I just have to say, “Why are you making 5 lunches every day? Your kids can do that! We have specific foods they can add to their lunch of course, but they do it all themselves.
- Make rice or hot cereal! We’ve done both in the rice cooker, and your kids can do this at age 4, I promise! You just need to teach them the 2:1 grain principle. Most grains we make need 2 cups of water, for every 1 cup of grains! You can write it right on your rice cooker. Of course, this isn’t always true- but for most of the grains we make, it is!
- Cutting! You don’t have to give them the big butcher knife, but they really can cut certain things from early on. This is my daughter when she was 8. I found an old blog post that SHE wrote- lol. We have a crinkle cutter that my kids have been using to cut veggies for years and years! They also can use kitchen shears to snip up produce and cut other foods like quesadillas or pizza.
- Wash the produce. Kids can do this as young as 3 years old. We have a homemade veggie wash that kids LOVE to spray!
- Mash food! I didn’t have a picture of this, but mashing bananas for banana bread, or even to help you feed the baby!
- Plan meals! We have a template for meal planning that you can print and fill out with your kids! Meal planning is a skill that most parents don’t realize is important to teach, yet it’s a skill that will help them eat healthy foods when they are independent. We have this four day template that I’ve used to teach in schools and scouts that remind kids to choose foods from each food group, to ensure they are eating a balanced meal (print here) .
- Clean the kitchen! How can you teach cooking skills without the most important part, cleaning up when you are finished! Kids can set the table, clear the table, fill the dishwasher, rinse dishes, recycle the scraps, wipe the counters, etc!
What kitchen skills did I miss?
I'm a registered dietitian, mom of 4, avid lover of food and strong promoter of healthy habits. Here you will find lots of delicious recipes full of fruits and veggies, tips for getting your kids to eat better and become intuitive eaters and lots of resources for feeding your family.Learn More about Natalie
Thanks so much for the nice post. I’m sharing it to my page to pass along these important ideas.
Thanks for the post Amy! You’ve shared some important ideas here. I’m sharing it to my page too so that my friends and family can see it too.
I’ve just discovered your blog. You are a smart cookie Amy! No pun intended. I love your thoughts on kids and cooking. What a wonderful experience for them (and you). They are never too young to learn. Your last paragraph really makes a statement! Good going Amy! I love it.
I agree 100%. All kids should know how to do these basic things in the kitchen. My kids love measuring out ingredients too. Thanks for sharing.
I love this! We grow up doing these things and think that in order to provide a “better life” for our children it means they shouldn’t have to do all we did. But then we scratch our heads when our children grow up and turn out irresponsible and lame. We turned out so well because of the things we were allowed/expected to do and cooking is one of them! I also love that you have all of your kids in there helping – boys and girls. Both need to learn the basics because both will need to eat when they leave home! 🙂
My kids really like helping, too… but I’m guilty of not letting them help because a lot of times I’m cooking at the gas-fire stove and I think it’s too dangerous. But these are some good suggestions. I think I will look for a crinkle cutter. It might help them to eat their veggies too. I know my oldest likes cucumbers – so this could be great for her.
Love the ideas. i want to teach my kids how to cook and be apart of what they eat and i think they will eat the food if they help. how can i become a better cook and learn how so i can teach my kids how to cook?
I love this! My mom grew up in China in a poor village, so she had to learn to cook for her family when she was 5 years old. On the other end of the spectrum is my FIL who is the youngest of 9 siblings, and only know, to this day, probably a handful of dishes. Now, my parents really demonstrated their love for us through meals (they still do), so we never learned much from them, but I love all the resources available for us to learn how to cook.
I totally agree with you, Tia!
Mandy- YOUTUBE! I love going to Youtube for cooking tutorials. They are such a great resource without having to go to actual cooking classes.
A well known chef here in the UK said the next generation of kids will be the first who won’t know how to boil an egg!
I have my two boys 6 & 10 set the table and clear the table each meal time. Their not washing the dishes yet – but I’m working on it.
I also get them involved in making breakfast. My 10 year old is now an expert in making and flipping pancakes. They love it.
At the end of the day, you’re kids should be a part of the family not the centre of it. Many parents get this mixed up.
Great post by the way.
Wow, great content. I love it! Surely will bookmark this site. And for sure I will try this with my kids! Thanks for sharing!
This is a great post! My daughter just turned 4 so I have her help me as often as possible in the kitchen. I think it not only teaches about cooking, but proper hygiene as well. It drums home the importance of washing hands and keeping the workstation clean.
Great post! Reminds me how important it is to include kids in the kitchen and help them feel capable by teaching them how to perform important tasks. What a great way to build character and be a family team player at the same time!
I think using the juicer and food processor to make healthy smoothies should have featured in your list. This would help them rethink their snack choices and choose something healthier over cookies in the long run. Just my two cents!
This is a great post! I have an 8-year old daughter who loves to help me in the kitchen. Just yesterday, she helped me to bake her favorite cake. It is really fun!
My son is only 3 and a half but he has been helping her bake since he was 3. If you don’t get them involved when they are interested you might not get another opportunity.
Great Post. 🙂
Really nice pictures. It is true that you you should give confidence to your kids and give them postive feedback
Wow! This is a very well written post. I am impressed.
this is a great read definitely going to turn my daughter on to this! I think another essential cooking skill would be to cook eggs. Everyone loves breakfast!
Great list! I agree with other comments that setting the table and using a blender/food processor are good ones to add. Also cracking an egg- we are working in that right now with our 5-year-old! He loves using the electric mixer too, and stirring with a wooden spoon.
My granddaughter and I started “baking” together when she was 18 months old. I sat in the floor with her and let her pour and stir muffin mixes. Now at 4 she can bake a cake from scratch, chop salads, make, cook and flip pancakes, make scrambled eggs, pizza, tacos and fried rice. Cooking has taught fine motor skills, cause and effect relationships, counting, math skills and an interest in reading. Cooking together is a joy for both of us.
This is great! I especially love the 8 year old blog. My daughter is 8 and that’s what she would write. I love this!!
@kenia- That daughter is 14 years old now! I just showed her that post, and she doesn’t remember writing it of course, but I think it’s hilarious!!
Wow….!!! Great post !! I love it !!
Love this list, but I would add one skill at the very top. Always, always, always wash your hands before handling food. So many children, and adults for that matter, end up skipping this very important step. My son is three, but the one thing he knows he MUST do before I let him help me in the kitchen is to wash his hands.
These tips are terrific! I haven’t used my rice cooker in ages but now am excited to bring it out again. I have an 8 year old son who likes to help, too. Two things he loves to do is roll out homemade pizza dough and use the blender to make smoothies. I agree, it’s more messy and takes longer but it’s totally worth it to see him enjoying a meal that he helped make.
I completely agree with this list! I loved helping my mom in the kitchen and by the time I was 12 years old, I was cooking dinner for the family at least 3 nights a week.
The other thing I would add is meal planning is also an extremely useful tool when learning to live on a budget.
Great post! I’m going to share it on my Facebook Page (https://www.facebook.com/funfood4kidz). I would add ‘cracking eggs’ to the list too. I have a just-turned 4yo and we’ve been doing ‘Special Breakfast Sunday’ for about a year and a half now. I think people underestimate what little kids are capable of when you let them believe they can do things. My son has been cracking eggs like a blackbelt for ages now (oh, and I would add that to the list too!) but you have inspired me to raise the bar with lots of other things mentioned in your post.
Thank you for such an interesting post – you inspired me to sign up to your blog! Looking forward to many more super healthy kid ideas 🙂
My kids are always helping me in the kitchen. This is the ultimate way to love, have fun and teach at the same time for sure 🙂
Great post! Could add cracking eggs, reading package labels for ingredients and cooking directions.
I would add to that:
How to use the microwave (the hot cereal works here too)
How to use the freezer (healthy juice Popsicles come to mind, but I’m sure there are a bajillion other ideas)
Thank you so much for this article! I cooked for my family at an early age, so I know the benefits first hand! I do wish that I had been taught to meal plan and to coupon with a fixed grocery budget. Had to learn that the hard way once I got married and moved out!
These are some great skills for kids to learn. However, it should always be mentioned that it is always best to wash your hands before handling any kind of food.
I’d also include following a recipe as a necessary skill. I have two kids that LOVE to cook and one who does it grudgingly. Thanks for the tips!
Eggs! Eggs are cheap, and there’s so much you can teach them early: how to crack an egg, how to whisk eggs, how to make scrambled eggs, etc. If you don’t want them to handle raw eggs, teach them how to peel hard-boiled eggs…and then make devilled eggs!
We have 8 children (all adults now); at one time I had 6 potato peelers in my utensil drawer. The kids loved peeling carrots and potatoes and with several kids peeling the job got done super fast. They even had races. They Lso each had at least one favorite entree that was theirs to make when we had it on the menu. All are excellent cooks and each has his/her own specialty. A ten year old granddaughter bakes cookies and cupcakes to bring to grandma’s house, a nice turn-around on tradition, and she made the best burritos we’ve ever tasted when she visited us last night. Dishes were not a favorite chore, but the deal was that if you taught a younger sibling to do the dishes they could take your place when you turned 16 (not such a great deal my youngest reminded me).
My stay-at-home dad taught me to cook, and I’m convinced that learning to cook as a child made a huge difference in my aptitude for it. It’s not a formal study or anything, but anecdotally among my peer group, I’ve observed that people who’s parents took an interest in making sure their kids could feed themselves are much better cooks than the ones who never had the opportunity to learn when they were little.
Like everything learning to cook is a process. We started ours young with helping to measure and stir. Now at 10 and 12 they each have one night a week that they are in charge of dinner. From start to finish. They look at the weekly grocery ads and cookbooks to plan the meal, then check the fridge and pantry for ingredients, make a shopping list, get their ingredients when we are at the store, and cook it up on their night. They are welcome to ask for help, especially if they are trying something new, but it is their meal. A slow cooker is also a great tool for them to learn to use. Easy and healthy even on busy days.
Love this article! I teach my grandkids all of these things, but I don’t have a crinkle cutter. Need to find one of those. Thanks for the suggestion. I also teach them, when they are old enough to hold a small carton of milk or pitcher of liquid, how to measure liquid ingredients into a glass measuring cup. Also how to make a well in dry ingredients before adding the liquid, as in making biscuits or muffins.
They love using cookie and biscuit cutters to cut out crackers, cookies, scones, and etc. The older ones get to use the pizza wheel to make triangular-shaped scones. (They’re all pretty young still.)
Thanks for an excellent article.
My kids are older now-11 & 13, and they are confident enough in the kitchen that they prepare one meal a week alone. I also bought them a smaller version of a chef’s knife at Target, it was easier to control, so i could teach them about knife safety too. I would add things like brown ground meats or making simple things like pastas to your list.
My two girls are 8 and 9. They have been making their own scrambled eggs and pancakes since they were 6 and 7. They have been helping me since they were 5. They know how to boil water for pasta, open cans with the hand held can opener, use a vegetable peeler, wrap veggies and other items in foil for putting in the oven or on the grill, make smoothies in the blender, and use the kitchen aid to make bread. They know how to make grilled cheese sandwiches, and deviled eggs. They love frosting cookies and cup cakes. Mixing and rolling out doughs for pies, cookies and rolls is something they will sit together and be creative over. and this is all just in the kitchen. I have them help with laundry and house cleaning too. But that’s another post, I’m sure.
It’s so important for kids to learn how to cook from an early age. It is a great idea for parents to include their children in cooking activities from an early age to help them learn how to cook in later life.
I did this, as a single Mum, when my kids were younger. My daughter was 3 when we started spending Sunday afternoons creating wonderful things together. It was bonding time, Maths lessons and loads of fun. This morning that 3 year old, now 14, was in the kitchen making cookies with my almost 3 year old Granddaughter! It turned my heart to mush!
Thank you for sharing these wonderful ideas, I believe it is paramount for kids to know how to cook the basics so they are able to make better food choices once they are ready to leave the nest and explore the world on their own. And what better way to instill confidence in them early on then to give them such an important skill set. Its clearly evidenced by the beaming children in all of your photos. Kudos!
This is awesome. I am homeschooling my 4 grandchildren. The 10 and 13 year old want to learn to cook. Thanks for these tips.
At 68, I know how to cook, but never taught any kids how to cook.
this was very helpful for my school project and i really loved it!
Totally agree! There are so many benefits to kids learning kitchen skills at a young age- self-confidence, healthy eating habits, independence, service, & self-reliance! Love this post!