Cooking with Young Children

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You may ask, “Aren’t they too young?”

While they are still too young to be around and handle hot appliances, sharp cooking utensils, and fast-moving cooking equipment, there are plenty of snacks and meals you can make with your young chef that do not need heat. Having your young child help in the kitchen is a good way to get your child to try new foods and learn healthy eating habits.

Benefits of cooking with young children

  • Cooking is a good way to get your child to try new foods. Children are much less likely to reject foods that they helped to make. 
  • Cooking can help develop children’s small or fine motor skills by using cooking tools and utensils (like a measuring cup to scoop or a spoon to stir).
  • Cooking encourages creativity.  Allow children to make decisions, add extra features, and do as much as possible. For example, they could make a salad a colorful masterpiece with different vegetables and fruit.
  • Cooking builds their self-esteem and confidence. Children feel good about themselves for getting small tasks done in a “grown-up” activity. 
  • Cooking is a nutritious and delicious way to bring the family together. It can be a fun activity for the whole family to take part in and make memories.

Child-Friendly Recipes

Baked Chicken Nuggets

Confetti Bean Salsa Dried Fruit Pemmican English Muffin Veggie Pizza

Do It Yourself Activity Instructions

What can they do in the kitchen?

As children grow, they develop new skills and are able to help out with different tasks in the kitchen.  They just might be handier in the kitchen than you expect!

  1. Review the stack of cards that list various cooking tasks that young children can help with.
  2. Use the laminated chart to match the cooking tasks with the age at which it is developmentally appropriate for young children. Remember, no matter what age a child is, always take safety precautions with heated (like pans), sharp (like knives) and fast-moving objects (like blenders or mixers) while cooking.
  3. Once you have sorted the cards, use the developmentally appropriate cooking tasks chart to check your answers. Remember, although children all develop at different rates, these categories represent general trends in development.
  4. Examine how cooking skills build upon one another and think about these questions:
    • Which tasks in the recipes included in the informational materials could your child help with?
    • Which of your current recipes could your child help you to cook? What tasks could they do?
    • How might cooking skills develop differently from child to child?
    • Does the space you cook in support your child? Is there a place for them to sit where they can still reach surfaces?
    • How might your child feel after helping? Did cooking together help boost self-esteem or a sense of belonging?

Materials for the Cooking with Young Children learning center:


New York State Department of Health. (2008). “Let’s Cook Together”. Eat Well Play Hard in Child Care Settings Curriculum. Retrieved from

Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Program, Pennsylvania Nutrition Education Network. Website Recipes. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture. Retrieved from

United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service. “Let’s Cook Together”. Nibbles for Health.

USDA, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) (2000). Recipes and Tips for Healthy, Thrifty Meals. Retrieved from

United States Department of the Interior. Let’s Move! In Indian Country. Retrieved from

USDA, Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) and Food and Drug Administration, DHHS. The Power of Choice. Retrieved from

Special thanks to Angeline Vanto for creating this learning center.

1 thought on “Cooking with Young Children

  1. Pingback: Active Early & Healthy Bites: Home Edition, Part IV | Active Early & Healthy Bites

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