How to Cook by Age

Cooking can be enjoyable for kids of all ages. With any luck, children can develop an abiding love, skills, and techniques they can use through adulthood when you introduce them to the kitchen and start them young.

Why is cooking good for kids?

Though each kid's ability to tackle various cooking activities is different, there's a plethora of benefits in addition to all the fun. It can boost their self-confidence, enhances family relationships, teach important life skills, and encourages better health. It may not be the cleanest or fastest way to get your meals on the table but teaching your children some cooking skills is completely worth the effort and can be incredibly rewarding.

Teaching Kids How to Cook by Age

Cooking skills are connected to healthy food choices. To give our children the best kick-start towards a healthy life, teaching them skills and techniques to make healthy meals on their own is a must. As they learn the art of cooking suitable for their age, you have the luxury of watching them refine and flourish those skills before your eyes. Below are the skill sets that your kids can learn and try at different ages.

Tasks for 0 to 3 Year Olds: Observing and Exploring

Toddlers are very curious. Take advantage of that curiosity and allow them to touch, taste, smell, and look at a variety of ingredients. Let them safely explore with all their hearts and senses. This is a great opportunity to teach your kids about the texture, colors, shapes, and tastes of foods and acquaint them with your kitchen environment.

Activities that toddlers will enjoy:

  • Mashing soft foods like cooked potatoes, avocados, and bananas.
  • Help you wash veggies and fruits.
  • They can learn the name of kitchen tools and their usage as well as cooking terms while they watch and listen to how you prep and cook a meal.
  • Let them taste everything. Exposing your child to various foods can inspire healthy choices and discourage picky-eating tendencies.
  • Give them kitchen tools and utensils playset so they can imitate what you do.

Tasks for 4 to 6 Year Olds: Imitation and Discovery

A fun age where your kids discover and try new things though what they can do depends on their attention span and dexterity. At this age, you can let your child try any basic skill. With patience, you can get them involved in any stage of cooking such as setting food or utensils on the table or choosing ingredients at the store.

Tasks that your 4 to 6 year olds can do with very little help:

  • Stir batter and other room-temperature foods independently.
  • Set the timer.
  • Peel hard-boiled eggs.
  • Pour the pre-measured ingredients into a bowl.
  • Use biscuits or cookie cutters to cut out shapes.
  • Gather ingredients and lightweight tools for a recipe.
  • Cut soft foods like eggs, cheese, and bananas with a wooden or plastic knife.
  • Decorate and frost cupcakes and cookies.
  • Set the table.
  • Unload the dishwasher (remove knives, sharp, and heavy items first)

Tasks for 7 to 9 Year Olds: Collaborate and Experiment

Your kids can now be a huge aid in the kitchen. Children this age can easily and safely do the previous tasks, as well as cooperate with you on complicated skills to cook a meal.

If your kid is between the ages of 7 and 9, motivate them to do or attempt the following skills:

  • Read and follow a recipe (with help).
  • Crack eggs in separate bowls.
  • Measure dry and wet ingredients.
  • Help clean up kitchen tools and counters.
  • Make pancakes and school lunches.
  • Practice and demonstrate stovetop safety.
  • Peel vegetables and fruits using a peeler.
  • Use a paring knife to slice apples, cucumber, and zucchini. (under supervision)
  • Use a hand mixer to whip heavy cream.
  • Make fried or scrambled eggs.
  • Knead, roll out, and cut dough
  • Use a can opener.
  • Help plan a dinner menu.
  • Grease and flour baking pans.

Tasks for 10 to 12 Year Olds: Multitasking and Planning

Although supervision is still necessary for a few things, kids this age can definitely undertake a lot more responsibility. By now, your child is reading well and can easily follow directions. At this age, they possess a working knowledge of the above skills.

Skills to try with your kids during your cooking session:

  • Read and follow a recipe and cooking directions on their own.
  • Multitask meal duties like chopping veggies while bringing water to a boil.
  • Plan menus independently.
  • Make a shopping list.
  • Use most kitchen appliances and tools.
  • Safely and properly handle raw meat.
  • With supervision, put food in an oven and safely remove them using a hot pad.
  • Use thermometers and timers.
  • Separate egg whites and yolks.
  • Cut produce flat using a chef's knife.

Tasks for 13+ Year Olds: Capable and Skilled

If you have been teaching your kids to cook for a while, the real fun begins at this age. This is where their confidence and skills in the kitchen let them discover and unleash their inner top chef.

Skills and tasks for your kids this age to try and develop:

  • Practice expert knife skills like mincing, chopping, dicing, chiffonade, julienne cut, etc.
  • Use all kitchen appliances and tools.
  • Deep-fry foods.
  • Bake elaborate pastries, bread, and cakes.
  • Experiment with a variety of textures and flavors.
  • Make a dish from a complex recipe.
  • Prepare an entire meal independently and serve it to the family.

The Bottom Line

To pass the apron and chef's knife to your child and watch them thrive and survive in the kitchen all on their own is extremely pleasing. Remember to anticipate mistakes, expect messes, and teach safety and precaution in the kitchen. Above all, don't forget to encourage and acknowledge their every little progress and success. As you teach and guide your children, they will come to appreciate the efforts of cooking delicious meals for your family.