What are the Benefits of Cooking with Your Kids?


Read time: 3 minutes

What to know about having your kids help in the kitchen

  • Children as young as 1 can help cook in the kitchen

  • Cooking together builds lifelong skills and can help prevent picky eating

  • Cooking together provides a low-pressure way to expose kids to new foods

Raising an adventurous eater doesn’t just happen at the kitchen table, it can also happen outside of mealtime! Cooking with your children, as young as early toddlerhood, can create positive food experiences that lessen the pressure that little ones may have around mealtime and eating.

Not only does cooking with your children expose them to foods at different stages of the cooking process without any pressure to try them, but it can also help build confidence as they gain new lifelong skills.

Read more: The Division of Responsibility: Helping Avoid Picky Eating

When can kids start helping in the kitchen?

Little ones love to help, thanks to their “can-do” persistence and willingness to do whatever their grown-up is doing.1

As soon as your toddler is old enough to safely stand on a stool or chair next to you, and grasp a utensil, they’re ready to help! There are even stools you can purchase made specifically for little ones to use when helping in the kitchen.

Some age-appropriate kitchen skills include:

  • Children between 1-2 years of age can wash fruits and vegetables, mix and stir with a spoon, roll dough into balls, and use a cookie cutter or dull plastic knife to cut.

  • Older toddlers can practice spreading condiments, pouring pre-measured ingredients, stirring, mixing, and mashing foods.

  • Older children can help read recipes, measure ingredients, crack eggs, cut soft foods and herbs, and more!2

Children should always be closely supervised in the kitchen.

Here is a recipe you can try with your little ones: Cream Cheese Pinwheels with Bell Peppers.

*Recipe Tip: Little ones can help mix and spread the cream cheese mixture as well as roll up the tortillas.

Need help with your picky eater or figuring out how to have your child help out in the kitchen? Come chat with our team of registered dietitian nutritionists, fellow moms, and lactation specialists, available from Monday – Friday 8 am – 6 pm (ET). Chat now!

What are the benefits of cooking with kids?

One surefire way to boost your child’s confidence is to let them have some ownership in preparing the meal. Who doesn’t love to see the fruit of their labor, and get to eat it too?

The experience of seeing, touching, and smelling the food in the cooking process is great for exposure, and exposure is necessary when it comes to your child eventually trying the food.

Research shows that cooking involvement is associated with positive changes in dietary behavior.3,4

Some children may even willingly taste the ingredients as they help cook, but refuse them at the dinner table. That is normal. Know that allowing your children to try foods in a no-pressure way, like while they’re happily cooking alongside you, is a great way to help avoid picky eating and increase exposure to new foods.https://www.eatright.org/food/food-preparation/cooking-tips

Cooking is also a great introduction to science, reading, math, and even art.

Kids can work on fine motor skills as they chop, knead, and mix. They’ll also love experimenting with different ways of cooking and flavoring foods – you may even end up with a new family favorite recipe!

While cooking with kids usually takes longer and is much messier, embracing the mess and chaos can result in long-term benefits when it comes to your child’s eating habits.

Here is a recipe you can try with your little ones: Tortellini On-A-Stick with Marinara Dipping Sauce.

*Recipe Tip: Little ones can help wash the veggies, as well as slide vegetables and tortellini onto skewers.

Read more: Family Meals: Developing Healthy Eating Patterns

Make cooking fun for you and your child

Thanks to the internet, there is no shortage of free family-friendly recipes and cooking videos out there. And there are many child-friendly cooking utensils on the market, such as child-safe knives and smaller whisks and spoons for little hands. There are even kid cooking subscriptions and cookbooks available geared towards new readers.

However, all you really need are the basics: just you and your child in the kitchen creating new memories and meals together.

Read more:

Fun Food Activities to do with Toddlers

Family Dinner Ideas: Fun and Easy Interactive Meals to Make with your Kids

Let's Chat!

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Our Happy Experts are a team of lactation consultants and registered dietitian nutritionists certified in infant and maternal nutrition – and they’re all moms, too! They’re here to offer personalized support on our free, one-on-one, live chat platform Monday - Friday 8am-6pm (ET). No appointment needed, no email or sign-up required. Chat Now!

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For more on this topic, check out the following articles:

Meal Plan: How to Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Strategies for Creating a Healthy Kitchen for your Family

Picky Eater Meal Plan: Recipe and Snack Ideas

4 Tips for Making Easy, Nutritious Snacks for Moms and Toddlers

8 Tips for Simple, Quick, Healthy Cooking