Monday, April 07, 2008

Kids in the Kitchen — by Guest Mom Lindsey Rose Johnson

Because I am a mom who loves to cook, it is important to me that I teach my children how to cook.

For me, it has been a little hard to relinquish my kitchen to my three-year-old who more often than not flips flour all over the floor...

Yet, as I've started to do this with my little girl, I'm realizing just how much kids can benefit from being taught how to cook and spending time in the kitchen with mom and dad.

Sous Chef Baking Set from Sur la Table

Depending on the age and maturity of the child, they can learn myriad things from cooking:

1. Math skills — fractions, time, measuring, counting
2. Seeing a process from inception to finished product — planning and getting ready to the execution of a recipe, followed by cleaning up
3. Reading, following directions
4. Food and general safety — being careful to stay away from fire and hot pans, cutting with knives (older kids) or staying away from them (younger), proper hand washing techniques, what to do in case of a fire
5. How to use their senses — especially taste, smell, touch
6. Working together and helping
7. Pride in their own work
8. Simple biology and food science — how things grow, chemical reactions (vinegar and baking soda, for example), where milk and other foods come from (sugar, flour, fruits and veggies)
9. Eating healthy and taking care of their bodies
10. Making decisions (i.e. what to do next, what to have for dinner, etc.)
11. Motor skills — especially fine motor
12. Good recycling habits for food containers (check your local recycling rules)

Baking is a wonderful way to introduce your child to the kitchen. There are quite a few simple things kids can help with. As they become older or more advanced, the things they can do will change.

Some things kids can do:

1. Measuring and placing liquid or dry ingredients into the bowl

2. Whisking or stirring ingredients

3. Washing dishes afterwards

4. Getting ingredients and tools out of the cupboard, pantry, fridge, or drawers.
5. Rolling out dough

6. Making balls of dough — bread, cookies, etc.
7. Taste testing — Does it need more salt? Is it too spicy?
8. Using cookie cutters

9. Placing cookies or biscuits on the pan

9. Greasing pans with brushes (we call it "painting the pans")

10. Setting the timer
11. Peeling vegetables (older kids)
12. Tearing lettuce for salads
13. Washing fruits and vegetables
14. Decorating cookies or cakes
15. Wiping off the counters and table
16. Throwing things in the garbage
17. Planting a garden and helping to take care of it afterwards — watering plants, weeding, etc.

18. Picking fruits, vegetables, and herbs (check for local farms that allow patrons to pick their own produce)
19. Help with grocery shopping — let them choose some healthy things that they like
20. Meal planning

Good things to make with kids:
1. Pizza — kids can place all the toppings on the pizza
2. Bread, rolls, and biscuits — let them help knead and roll dough into balls
3. Cookies and cupcakes (not so healthy, but very fun)
4. Salads (grown ups do the cutting/slicing, kids do the tossing)
5. Popcorn
6. Lemonade — my daughter loves to squeeze the lemons
7. Sandwiches — let them use a butter knife to spread peanut butter on the bread, or let them layer deli meat and cheese

Other fun things to do in the kitchen:
Jell-o Cell Model
Homemade play dough (Design Mom posted about it here.)
Make Your Own Volcanoes
Make Your Own Butter (heavy cream in a baby food jar and shake)
Inedible Art Supplies
Kitchen Magnets

Other Links:
Age Appropriate Kitchen Tasks from
Williams-Sonoma Kids
Kids in the Kitchen from
Ideas for Vegetarian and Vegan Kids from In a Vegetarian Kitchen
16 Kitchen Safety Tips for Children from
"Why Teach Kids Cooking Activities?"from Kids Cooking Activities (great links on the sidebar)

What's your favorite thing to do in the kitchen with your kids?

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Blogger Jenny said...

We have the 'pretend soup' cookbook and my kids (4,2) love it. Each recipe has illustrations for the kids.

Thanks for all the good links!

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 12:37:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kiasa said...

It has become impossible to do anything lately with my toddler (18 months) demanding all my attention. Just last week I decided that maybe she's ready to help me and so we made cookies together. She LOVED it! I was surprised that it held her attention the whole time and she kept signing "more" when we were finished. We both had a great time in the kitchen together.

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 1:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Biddy said...

i absolutely LOVE to cook with my 5 year old nephew. my precious grandmother taught me how to cook starting around age 3. you may have already seen them, but Racael Ray has a kids line that we absolutely love! It even has knives for the kids, with a glove for the other hand that helps prevent cuts!

here is the link:

also, you should read the book Thundercakes to your kiddos. It has a recipe at the end!

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 1:01:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Chantal said...

Thanks Lindsey for the awesome post! I'm inspired to let my 4 year old "help" me more in the kitchen! Maybe one day she can be assigned to cook dinner for the that's a dream for a mother. :)

Welcome back!

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 1:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lindsay said...

Great ideas! My baby's only 9 months old, but he still helps out in the kitchen: from his spot on the floor or in the high chair, he smells the spices (cinnamon and nutmeg are favorites) and tastes tests the sugar (white and brown). We have a good time. :)

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 1:10:00 PM EDT  
Blogger R-Eight said...

Great ideas Lindsey!

I have loved cooking with my kids and there is little more gratifying to me than when they learn and can do it themselves. I wish I'd had these super lists when my big kids were younger.

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 1:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Adriana Velez said...

Wow, this is the definitive word on kids in the kitchen! Looking forward to more posts by Lindsey this week.

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 1:49:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Lauren said...

Thank you for all of the great ideas! My 2-year-old likes to help me wash and tear greens/lettuce, and likes to help me hand wash and rinse the napkins. It's fun to make up little songs about what you're doing, too.

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 1:53:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous rebecca said...

Lindsay, your kids are so lucky to have you as their kitchen tutor! I've learned to appreciate the time that my 3-yr-old and 5-yr-old want to spend with me in the kitchen-- they love to cook with me. The older boys used to love it when they were a little younger but have sort of outgrown it. But I still make them cook with me because I think it's so important that boys know how. I just taught my 9-yr-old how to melt chocolate over a pan of simmering water and I remember hearing him say, "This is totally cool!" way more than once.

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 3:13:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Tania said...

My kids love to cook with me too. I noticed tear lettuce was on the salad list. Jacob(3) loves to cut fruits and veggies. I have a small bar cutting board, with grips on the bottom. He uses a butter knife and can cut strawberries, mushrooms, cheese, and other soft items for salad or fruit salad. I had to get over the fact that they are not uniformly sliced - but he gets a huge kick out of doing it himself.

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 3:17:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Kelly said...

Sam loves to do the dishes and cook with me. Sometimes (what am I saying - it ALWAYS) makes it more complicated, but more fun too. It gets him aways from TV and gives him a good job. He loves to taste test and roll dough. Lilly will be a killer cook like her Mommy.

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 4:28:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Cafe Johnsonia said...

Biddy--I haven't seen that line. Thanks for the heads up. I'm going to check it out!

Everyone else--I love hearing what you do with your kids. Thanks for all of your great comments and other items for me to check out!

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 5:59:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Bek said...

Hello??? You are amazing. I get to say that on TWO blogs now...

I love that you cook with your girl. I have dedided that is what I am going to with Cubby for his mamma time. He LOVES it and I got some really good ideas from you (and good recipes....).

This can be a great way to have kids do their "work" in the home. We are going to have each child plan a meal, go to the store with me to shop for it, help make it, etc.

I can't wait for the rest of the week....

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 6:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Molly said...

Great post! My daughter loves to help me cook. She is four. We review the color and shape of items that we are using. We also count things. Sometimes my daughter even has her own pretend cooking show.

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 7:36:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Nikki & David Goldbeck said...

Kids in the and garden, kitchen and other similar venues are the answer – that’s why I wrote
“The ABC’s of Fruits and Vegetables and Beyond.” Out only a few months and already being bought in quantity for class use. For kids of all ages as it is two books in one – children first learn their alphabet through produce poems and then go on to hundreds of related activities. It is coauthored by best-selling food writer David Goldbeck (me)and Jim Henson writer Steve Charney. More at

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 9:05:00 PM EDT  
Blogger Travis said...

Nice job Lindsey. Love the photos, too. So beautiful!

Monday, April 7, 2008 at 9:39:00 PM EDT  
Blogger heather said...

Great post!! Thanks for such specific ideas!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008 at 3:14:00 AM EDT  
Blogger cltgrace said...

I love this blog entry! I've given workshops on the same topic to help teachers incorporate cooking in their classrooms. Your list is quite comprehesive! Thanks for sharing this with blogger moms everywhere.

Cooking is really great at introducing new vocabulary and expanding language. Think about all those kitchen words they learn - whisk, grate, whip, spatula, fold, knead - etc.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 7:28:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Stephanie said...

Great ideas! I'm just starting to cook with my toddler and it's a wonderful way to involve her in every-day tasks.

P.S. I linked to this article on my "Tuesday Tours" column.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 6:53:00 PM EDT  

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