Looking to get your kids in the kitchen but not sure what tasks they could do?
Do you need some recipe ideas that include simple steps kids can help with?
Wondering how to do this with gluten free recipes?
Look no further – I’m going to detail out 15 ways little kids can help cook in the kitchen.
Kids in the kitchen can be a pain. Sometimes you just need to get dinner on the table and the pitter patter of little feet near the oven can make you want to scream. Believe me, I get it.
As much as it can be painful, when I can I make an effort to have my kids help me with the cooking. Not usually on weeknights when things get hectic, but on a day when we have a little extra time and I have a little extra patience.
I’ve heard from several people that they want their kids to learn about food and try new things. This is one of my mom goals.
I didn’t know much about food growing up (other than I liked it) and while I’ve enjoyed my cooking journey as an adult, I want my kids to learn at an earlier age.
So today I’m sharing my top 15 ways little kids can help cook. This post focuses on little kids (roughly ages 4 to 6) because this is what I know best. All of these would still apply to older children as well, but they would likely be able to do more advanced tasks with less supervision.
Heck, you may even get lucky and wind up with a kid with skills like the ones on Chopped Junior. They could make YOU dinner!
But back to reality.
Below are the specific actions little kids can do, and I’m including a recipe I have actually had my kids help out with.
Let me be clear – my kids rarely help out with an entire recipe. They either get bored and want to go do something else or want to do too much and I have to pull them back a bit. But the point is they’re helping and learning, and that’s what the goal is.
Read on the see ways your little kids can help out in the kitchen.
15 Ways Little Kids Can Help Cook
1. Planning. Before you think about what you can have your kids do, try to include them in the planning process. For us this has involved flipping through cookbooks, looking at recipes online, and just general discussions of what they’d like to eat. For dinners we usually do one or two easier meals, like burgers or tuna melts, a slow cooker recipe (Nom Nom Paleo’s Kalua Pig is a favorite), and fill in the rest as we see fit.
2. Pouring – Weeknight Paleo Ground Beef Stroganoff. Pouring liquids into bowls or pans is an easy way for kids to help. Plus they usually have lots of practice already with pouring, say, oh, water out of a bathtub. Not that I’m speaking from personal experience here. Just regulate where the pouring happens and you’re good to go.
4. Mashing – Gluten Free Maple Pecan Banana Bread. What kids doesn’t love to mash things up? A banana bread recipe is perfect for this. Get a mashing tool out and let the kids go to town. If you use a flat-bottomed plastic container for this it makes the bananas much easier to mash than when they’re in a bowl.
5. Measuring – Gluten Free Poppyseed Pound Cake. The nice thing about a lot of baked good recipes is there’s typically a number of things to measure out (flour, sugar, etc). This works especially well if you have more than one kid and have to take turns. Kids can alternate digging into the flour (gluten free or otherwise) with a measuring cup and dipping a measuring spoon into the baking soda.
6. Rinsing – Cashew Grape Chicken Salad. What’s nice about something simple like rinsing, in this case the grapes for the salad, is that it can also lead to a discussion about WHY we’re rinsing. That grapes grow outside and sometimes there’s dirt or bugs (or other things) on fruit and vegetables that need to get washed off before they’re okay to eat. If it can at all prevent them from just popping things in their mouth willy-nilly, I’m all for it.
7. Whisking – Gluten Free Gingery Lemon Blueberry Pancakes. Not sure what it is about whisks, but my kids seem to love them. Which is why whisking pancake batter is always a hit. It’s better to have the kids start slow so you don’t wind up with batter all over the counter. The hard part can be keeping them from taking the dirty whisk out of the kitchen to play with after we’re done. But that’s where Task 15 comes in.
8. Whipping – Crustless Banana Cream Pie Cups. This is similar enough to whisking, with the help of electricity to make it go that much faster. For this recipe it’s best if you start out whipping first to make sure whipped cream doesn’t go flying, which I have done enough times before on my own. Then once you find a good angle, you can direct your kids to help. I typically hold my kids’ hands while they’re holding the mixer. Or if you’re using a stand mixer, just let them switch the speed. Though I usually have to warn them to do one notch at at time, otherwise hello splatter.
9. Squeezing – Sparkling Citrus Mocktail for a Brunch Crowd. I think it’s the cause and effect action that makes this task fun for kids. They love to see the juice coming out of the fruit. Typically kids will need help with this task as their grips aren’t strong enough to get all the juice out, but they can at least start the process.
10. Stirring – Quick & Easy Meat Sauce. This recipe requires lots of stirring so is good for taking turns between kids if you’ve got more than one. When stirring something hot, you’ll want to remind your kids to go slow so they’re not splashing hot marinara sauce on themselves. There are lots of “be carefuls” and “watch outs” involved, but with practice it becomes less and less. The bonus to doing this particular recipe: in the end everyone gets to eat a kid favorite – spaghetti.
11. Seasoning – Lemon Thyme Chicken Sheet Pan Dinner. Sprinkling salt on food must be a lot like sprinkling glitter on art projects for kids. Kids love it, but you have to be careful they don’t over salt the food otherwise dinner quickly turns inedible. We talk about doing “just a pinch” and I’ll let them mix the salt into the food if that’s an option. Getting messy is usually a pretty big draw for kids so this task can go over well.
12. Spiralizing – Pesto Prawns with Zoodles. I think part of the reason spiraling is fun is it’s reminiscent of smooshing play-doh through one of those little toys to make play-doh spaghetti. Which has to be why kids like it too. You do have to be careful when kids are doing this as the blades are sharp, but as long as you’re watching out this is a great task for kids to help with. What’s even better is Ali over at Inspiralized has an Inspiralized Kids blog too.
13. Shaking – Lean Green Spring Salad. The shaking part of this recipe comes in two places – shaking the water off the lettuce after it’s washed (which can get you wet real fast), and shaking the jar with the dressing in it. Simple and fun – a perfect combo for kids.call
14. Chopping – Easy Gluten Free Breakfast Quesadilla. Chopping is a HEAVILY supervised activity, and really more of an exposure to how to be VERY CAREFUL around knives. I will hold my kid’s hand while he holds the knife, and I will hold his other hand while he holds the food. We go very slowly and only for a couple of chops, enough that they can see and feel what’s happening, but before they get any ideas to try it on their own. One thing we make clear – knives are ONLY to be held when a parents is around. So far this has worked well for us.
15. Cleaning. This is no one’s favorite part, but it’s an important step to teach. I know I don’t want to always be the one doing the dishes, and if my kids are old enough to help cook, they’re old enough to help clean up too. So far this has mostly involved helping to clear things off a surface and putting items in the dishwasher. Once they’re a little bigger/taller, they can help rinse dirty dishes off as well (with the help of a step stool).
I hope you’ve found this list of 15 ways little kids can help cook helpful! If you want more info on getting kids in the kitchen, be sure and FOLLOW ME on INSTAGRAM as I post there frequently about cooking with my kids. And if you’re looking for more recipe ideas, be sure to also follow me on FACEBOOK, TWITTER, and PINTEREST. And speaking of…
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One last thing – if you try out any of these 15 ways little kids can help cook with your kids, let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what worked for you.