Teaching Kids to Cook



Thebestwaytoteachkids about eating rightis to actually get them into the kitchen to prepare healthy meals together. Cookingis a valuable life skill that teaches children about nutritionand food safety, aswell as building math, science, literacy and fine motor skills.

Encourage your child’s interestand even excitement in healthy foods by teaching your kids how to cook safelywith this guide of age-appropriate kitchen activities.

Food Safety Basics

Before you enter thekitchen, cover the groundruleswith children first:

  • Wash handsinwarm, soapy water before and after handling food.
  • Pull long hairback.
  • Keep countertops and working surfaces clean.
  • Teach childrento wait until the food is cooked before tasting. Don’t let them lick their fingersor put their hands in their mouths, especially when working with raw foodssuch as cookie dough and raw meat or poultry.
  • Avoid doubledipping or putting spoonsback into food after using them for tasting.
  • Remember, youngcooksneedsupervision.
  • Teach the foursimplesteps:
    • Wash hands, surfacesand kitchen utensils.
    • Keep raw meat, poultryand seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.
    • Cook to propertemperatures.
    • Refrigeratepromptly to 40 degrees F or below.


Youngchildrenlovehelpingout, but need very close adultsupervisionsince their motor skills are still developing. Teach theseyoungsters the importanceof washing produceand using clean appliancesand utensils.


  • Washhands with warm, soapy waterfor at least 20 seconds. Make it a game by singing the“Happy Birthday”songtogether twice as you wash your hands.
  • Wash fruitsand vegetablesthe sink with cool tap water.
  • Wipe uptabletops.
  • Mixingredients like easy-to-mix batters.
  • Brush(or “paint”) oil with a cleanpastry brush on bread, asparagus or other foods.
  • Cut cookies with fun shaped cookiecutters (but don’t eat the raw dough!).


Most6-7yearoldshavedeveloped fine motorskills, so they can handle more detailed work, but theywill still need food safetyreminders.


  • Use apeeler to peel raw potatoes, ginger,mangoes andother fruits and vegetables.
  • Break eggsinto abowl.
  • Scoop outavocados.
  • Deseedtomatoes and roasted peppers with a spoon.
  • Snapgreen beans.
  • Loadthe dishwasher.
  • Shuckcorn and rinse before cooking.
  • Rinseand cut parsley or green onions with blunt scissors.


Thereis a wide range of skills in this age group,sotailoryourtasks to each individual’s maturity level. Teach the importance of wiping downall surfaces and refrigerating perishables, suchaseggs and milk, withintwo hours.


  • Opencans witha can opener.
  • Put leftovers inshallow containers and refrigerate within two hours.
  • Pound chickenon a cutting board. Note:Always use a separate cutting board for ready-to-eatfoods, and be sureto wash hands with warm, soapy water after handlingraw chicken.
  • Beateggs.
  • Checkthe temperature of meat with a food thermometer – it’s like a science experiment!
  • Juice alemon or orange.

10-12 yearolds

For the mostpart, kids ages 10 -12 can workindependently in the kitchen, but should still have adult supervision. Before lettingthese kids do grown-up tasks on their own, assess whetherthey can follow basickitchen rules such as tucking pan handles, unpluggingelectricalappliances, using knives and safely using the oven or microwave.

AppropriateTasks (withadultsupervision):

  • Boilpasta.
  • Microwavefoods.
  • Follow arecipe, includingreading each step in order and measuring ingredientsaccurately.
  • Bake foods in the oven.
  • Simmeringredientson the stove.
  • Slice or chopvegetables.

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