Kids in the Kitchen

Sherene Chou | August 22, 2019

Learning how to cook is a great life skill to have. Though it may take a bit of extra work in the beginning, teaching kids how to be helpful in the kitchen ignites their curiosity for food and can enhance their confidence in the kitchen. By helping kids create their own meals and engaging in the exploration of flavors, these activities can expand their palates to trying new foods.

In The Picky Eater Project, the American Academy of Pediatrics developed ten rules to follow for picky-free parenting. Among them are asking kids to eat foods we are willing to eat ourselves, valuing the learning process to be more adventurous eaters by trying new foods, even if it’s just a bite, and having fun and experimenting with new foods. These foster ground rules for families to engage in food exploration and enhance bonding with each other and foods made together.

As younger kids are fine-tuning their motor skills, we’ve recommended some basic tasks and recipes to start and move up as they grow up.

Ages 3-5

  • Wipe table and chairs.
  • Wash fruits and vegetables.
  • Break apart veggies like cauliflower or broccoli.
  • Squeeze juice from citrus fruits like lemons or oranges.
  • Tear lettuce or leafy greens.
  • Move ingredients from one place to another.
  • Line food items on a baking sheet.
  • Put things in the trash.

Try: Lean and Green Edamame Hummus – This dip is packed with flavor, protein, and healthy fats. Give kids a chance to shell edamame, pick off cilantro leaves, peel off garlic peels, and juice lemons.

Ages 5-7

  • Measure or count ingredients.
  • Set the table.
  • Mix dry ingredients.
  • Mash ingredients like bananas and beans.
  • Roll dough into shapes or cut with cookie cutters.
  • Cut herbs with kid-friendly scissors.
  • Decorate or style plates and bowls with garnishes.

Try: No-Bake Trail Mix Bites – This is the perfect way to try different nuts, fruits, and seeds. With this recipe, kids get a chance to make their own bite-sized snack. After making the mixture, have your helper roll them into balls before putting them in the fridge to set.

Try: Pitaya Pineapple Smoothie Bowl – This colorful smoothie bowl is a great way for families to explore tropical fruits. Have kids help by decorating each smoothie bowl with different toppings to share their creativity.

Ages 8-12

  • Peel veggies.
  • Chop fruits and vegetables.
  • Mix simple ingredients together for a batter.
  • Make sandwiches, spreads for toast.
  • Put groceries away.

Try: Creamy Avocado Cilantro Spread – During this time, kids may be able to start peeling and chopping veggies, which is a great complement to these dips and spreads. Have kids build a platter for an appetizer or snack by choosing which vegetables or fruits they want. You’ll be amazed by what they put together!

No matter what age you start these activities, you’ll be sure to create memories and lessons that can last a lifetime!

Happy cooking!

Sherene Chou's profile picture

Sherene Chou

Sherene is an award-winning dietitian and chef focused on sustainable food and plant-based nutrition. She served as the Nutrition Director for L.A. Kitchen, a non-profit focused on serving seniors, empowering former foster youth, formerly incarcerated, and formerly homeless individuals. As a USC Trojan, she co-created USC Keck Medical School’s first nutrition selective for med students, the Culinary Medicine Selective. In 2017, she received the Excellence in Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Leadership Award from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in 2018, she was recognized by USC Keck Medical School for Outstanding Teaching Contributions and in 2019, she was featured as one of Today’s Dietitian Magazine’s 10 RDs who are making a difference.

Sherene serves as the Chair for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Vegetarian Practice Group, the Nutrition Advisor for the Plant Based Foods Association and on the Advisory Council for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine on Universal Meals. She has an M.S. in Nutrition from California State University, Los Angeles, B.S. in Public Policy and Business Law from USC, Chef’s Training from the Natural Gourmet Institute and Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from Cornell.

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