10 Things You Can with Your Child While Cooking

This post was originally published on July 20, 2017.


Making dinner or lunch? Why not include your child in the process! Cooking with your child is a fun way to work on math, fine motor, and gross motor skills. It also allows them to invest in the meal they are about to eat. Here are a few ways to make the experience extra child friendly:

  1. Re-write the Recipe: Go over the recipe you are going to make with your child. If 1possible, add images/drawings of the ingredients needed. Give your child a chance to “write” their own version of the recipe on a separate sheet. Going through this process helps your child build on their understanding of sequencing. Use “first….then…” phrases.
  2. Measure: This is an excellent way to work on math skills. Working with more than one child? Divide up measurements to smaller units to allow for more participation.
  3. Pour: This is a big milestone in a child’s development and requires a lot of practice. If you are worried about a big mess, place a plastic bin lid or plastic table cloth on the floor to create a pouring station.1
  4. Mix: Mixing is a great gross motor activity. Sing a song or count while mixing! If items are spilling out of the bowl, transfer a small portion to another bowl for your child to mix.
  5. Cut: Provide your child with a very blunt knife or a spoon to cut up soft items such as butter or bananas. While not all recipes include a child friendly item to cut, consider providing them with an item to cut that can be served as a side dish/appetizer. They will enjoy mimicking the way that you cut the tougher items.
  6. Cook: Baking, boiling, toasting, grilling, etc. is the magical transformation and the scientific part of cooking. While these steps of the process are the most dangerous for your child, they are also some of the most exciting. Allow your child to observe and “check on food” from a safe distance.2
  7. Serve: Serving the food is a great way to practice their balance and to develop upper arm strength!
  8. Share: Children are working hard on practicing this important social skill. Having them share the food over which they feel ownership provides great practice!
  9. Talk about Nutrition: Sometimes this conversation gets lost in the shuffle and excitement of the cooking process. Take a little extra time to explain to your child why we need different ingredients to make a nutritious and well balanced meal. Work with your child to sort each item on their plate into the different food pyramid categories (grains, fruits, veggies, proteins, etc.)
  10. Wash/Clean up: Ask your child to help clear the table and help with the dishes. Washing the dishes is a fun water play activity! Not ready to have them work at the sink with breakables? Fill a small tub with soapy water for them to wash a selected set of dishes!

Have fun cooking traditions or tips to share? We would love to hear them!