Getting kids involved in the kitchen

Getting kids involved in the kitchen
“I want to help you cook!” Tips for getting your child involved in the kitchen.

Cooking may seem like a chore to you, but for your child, it looks more like doing crafts or playing a game. Take advantage of this opportunity to get your child involved, even if they’re still very young.

Why should children be encouraged to cook?

Should you let your child help you in the kitchen? Video-ThumbExterne-cuisinie-participer

By getting a chance to cook with you, your child will develop a greater interest in food and new flavours. They’ll also be more interested in trying new foods if they got to help prepare them.

Cooking also gives your child a chance to develop their autonomy, self-confidence, creativity, dexterity, and fine motor skills. If your child is a little older, they’ll get to practise concepts they learned in school, such as reading, mathematics (units of measurement, fractions, multiplication or division if a recipe needs to be doubled or reduced, etc.), and science (desserts often involve chemistry concepts). What’s more, they’ll also learn about nutrition, which will help them take better care of themself once they’re all grown up.

Tips for cooking with your child

Here are a few tips and tricks you can follow to ensure this activity is a success:

Make sure you have enough time. If you’re in a hurry, cooking with your child could make you feel stressed and behind schedule. Patience is an essential ingredient for happy times in the kitchen.
  • Involve your child in choosing the recipe. Suggest recipes you know they’ll like, or ask them to choose their favourite recipe by giving them two or three options in an illustrated cookbook. Ask them if they’d like to try making a dish that’s unfamiliar to them once in a while. By helping to prepare a new dish, they’ll learn what it is, which might make them more interested in trying new foods.
  • Start with recipes you know.
  • Ask your child to help you make a shopping list and come to the store with you to buy everything you need. For example, you can ask them to check the contents of the refrigerator and pantry to see what you already have and what you need to get. If your child knows how to write, you can dictate items to them and they can prepare the shopping list. Once you get to the grocery store, use this opportunity to explain how you choose certain foods.
  • Get the kitchen ready before you ask your child to join you. For example, remember to clean all work surfaces you’ll be using and take out any ingredients, equipment, and utensils you’ll need. Choose safe utensils that are appropriate for your child’s age and the tasks you’ll be doing.
  • Separate your ingredients, cookware, and utensils according to the different recipe stages.
  • Before you start, wash your hands and ask your child to do the same thing.
  • Read the entire recipe to your child before you begin. Take this opportunity to explain the meaning of all the terms used in the recipe. If your child knows how to read or is learning how, ask them to read a few words or lines.
  • Try to complete each step of the recipe before moving on to the next one.
  • Ask your child to do certain tasks they are able to do.
  • Accept that small messes will be made. This is normal, since your child is still developing their skills. Help them clean up, but don’t do it for them. Make sure they understand that cleaning isn’t a punishment, but just a normal part of making a mess.
Take advantage of your child’s desire to imitate you
Young children often want to “help” their parents and do the same things they do. Just like cooking, it’s never too late to get your child involved in various household chores. Among other things, you can try turning chores into a game as a fun way to challenge and motivate your little one to help out. For more information, read our fact sheet on how to involve children in household chores (in French).

Age-appropriate tasks that children can do in the kitchen

Teach your child basic kitchen safety rules. Explain to them where they might burn or cut themself. Don’t scare them, but make sure they understand the risks. Show them how to use a knife, grater, peeler, can opener, etc. Watch video tutorials together.

Around the age of 1 and even earlier

Is your child too young to get involved? Position their high chair where they can watch you cook. This is a great way to familiarize them with basic foods and cooking ingredients. It’s never too early to start them off on the right foot! You can also go a step further by doing things such as:

  • Giving them an empty plastic bowl and spoon that they can use to imitate you
  • Allowing them to handle fruits and vegetables
  • Talking to them about food and letting them touch and smell various food items

Around age 2 or 3

These ages are meant to serve as a guideline only, since all children develop skills at their own pace.
  • Count eggs, carrots, bananas, and other countable ingredients
  • Make a mission out of taking certain ingredients out of the pantry
  • Add ingredients to a bowl
  • Place paper or silicone muffin cups into a muffin pan
  • Wash fruits and vegetables
  • Shred lettuce
  • Put toppings on a pizza or sandwich

Around age 3 or 4

  • Pour the contents of a measuring cup into another container
  • Mix ingredients
  • Peel certain thick-peeled fruits (bananas, oranges, grapefruit, etc.)
  • Mash bananas or potatoes with a fork or masher

Around age 4 to 6

  • Crack eggs (the task all children want to do!)
  • Beat an egg
  • Whisk ingredients together
  • Use a round-tipped knife to slice soft foods, such as soft or cooked fruits and vegetables (mushrooms, peppers, cucumbers), cheese, or tofu
  • Spread things using a round-tipped knife or spatula
  • Squeeze a lemon to extract the juice
  • Cut herbs with round-tipped scissors
As of age 6 or 7, you can even ask your child to get their own breakfast ready. They can get yours ready, too! (This will make them extremely proud of themself.) Get them involved in making their own lunch as well.
  • Grease baking dishes (cake pans, cookie sheets, etc.)
  • Use a rolling pin to roll out dough
  • Make toast or prepare a bowl of cereal
  • Shape balls (cookies, meatballs, etc.). If your child handles raw meat, watch them to make sure they don’t eat any of it and wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.
  • Participate in kitchen cleanup, such as washing or drying dishes

Around age 7 or 8

  • Measure recipe ingredients
  • Use a blender or can opener with your help
  • Use the microwave and oven with your help
  • Invent simple recipes for things like smoothies, pizza, and salad
  • Use a sharp knife to slice bread, tofu, cooked meat, and fruits and veggies that are soft and easy to hold (i.e., that won’t slip through their fingers)

What to do once you’re finished cooking with your child

Cooking with children will make a world of difference when they grow up.

In addition to thanking your budding chef for their help, encourage them to taste their creations, but don’t force them to. You can ask them questions such as: Is it sweet or savoury? Is it sour, mellow, creamy, grainy? Does it taste like onion, strawberry, or basil? Does it remind you of another dish? These questions will help awaken and cultivate your child’s sense of taste.

In addition to cooking, you can spark your child’s interest in food by reading them food-related books, gardening with them, drawing pictures of food, visiting a farm or local producer, picking your own food, preparing taste tests and themed meals, etc. These are all great activities you can do to help your child learn and develop new skills in a fun way.


10 recipes you can make with your child . . . and Kittycat! (Available in French only)

Things to keep in mind

  • Cooking is a fun way to help children develop a number of skills and abilities.
  • By learning their way around the kitchen, your child will develop their sense of taste and be less picky about what they eat.
  • Parents need to be patient and accept the fact that making a mess is part of the process.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Stéphanie Côté, M.Sc., nutritionist
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: July 2020





Note: The links to other websites are not updated regularly, and some URLs may have changed since publication. If a link is no longer valid, please use search engines to find the relevant information.

  • Côté, Stéphanie. Enfants : 21 jours de menus. Montreal, Éditions Modus Vivendi, “Savoir quoi manger” collection, 2018, 210 pp.
  • Fondation Olo “Cuisiner avec les enfants : invitez bébé en cuisine!” 2020.
  • Government of Canada. “Canada’s food guide: Involve kids in planning and preparing meals.” 2019.
  • Laurendeau, Hélène, et al. Je cuisine avec toi. Montreal, Éditions Édito, 2018, 112 pp.