Children in the Kitchen - Why It's Wonderful

Posted: September 15, 2020 | Updated: September 15, 2020
Created by: Ms. Sylvia

Why cook with kids?

If you don’t cook much yourself, the idea of cooking with your child(ren) can be terrifying.

Then again, if you’re an experienced home chef (and especially if you’re a professional), it can be hard to relinquish control of a recipe or of the kitchen.

In either position, when you hear “cook with kids”, you might be imagining pure chaos and destruction. Perhaps, in your mind's eye, you see ingredients on the ceiling, a sea of sauces on the floor, a home kitchen that never quite looks the same, and children, gone feral, chasing each other with kitchen knives around your home. Or perhaps you never imagined those things and I’ve just planted my personal nightmare into your head.

Having taught cooking classes to third graders, I can tell you that I initially felt your fears. However, I was shocked by what the reality looked like. The children were eager to earn the privilege of using kitchen tools, so they were very motivated to use them correctly. They were excited for the independence cooking represented, and were amazed by the kitchen magic we witnessed (if you’ve never seen an egg be whipped by hand and sheer will into mayonnaise, you’re in for a treat!).

Our cooking classes were often a highlight of my week. Boy, did we cook! Fresh bread, salads, smoothies, sauces, latkes, soups, jams, cookies, apple cider vinegar, fresh pressed apple juice, beans, ice cream, and more, all fully from scratch. I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t have to be the way you fear. Yes, there will be some extra mess and maybe the occasional injury, but if you establish clear expectations and boundaries, even those can be minimized (I’m proud to report that in my year of third grade cooking with 26 students, only one student had a minor accident with a knife). But what you’ll really get to experience is the joy of discovery, the fun of food science, and maybe even a more adventurous eater. We’re always more inclined to enjoy what we create ourselves!

In the kitchen you get to see a new side of a child, as they dive in with full concentration and show incredible pride in their creations. Cooking is a wonderful way to have time together, but it also introduces important concepts for literacy, math, history, and science. With so many of us learning at home, why not make the kitchen your schoolhouse?

How soon is too soon for my child to start helping in the kitchen?

As soon as you’re emotionally ready! Honestly, my answer is as early as possible. It can be intimidating to invite your child into the kitchen, but ultimately it’s an amazing experience and a gift to the whole family.

If you’re cooking with a two-year old, expect to double your preparation time and triple your usual clean up time, but two year olds love to mix and to smell different ingredients, as well as feel their textures. Three and four year olds love to knead dough for bread. If taught basic kitchen safety and given some guidance, nine year olds will especially appreciate cooking something all by themselves. Cultivating competence in the kitchen builds independence, a healthy relationship with food, and can be a great space to connect as a family. No matter the age you start introducing children to the kitchen, there will be huge benefits.

How can I start cooking with my child?

Luckily, a good children’s cookbook can be a great help. Check out our list of the Top 10 Cookbooks for Cooking with Children to get you started. There, you’ll find some resources I really treasure from my cooking adventures with children. I hope they’ll get you started safely and joyfully in your new culinary adventures. And remember -- have fun!