An age guide for what kids can help out with in the kitchen
Food & Drink / 19 June 2018, 3:00pm / Casey Seidenberg/The Washington Post
I vividly remember cooking with my mother and grandmother, and these memories are all exceedingly fond. Perhaps this is where my love of food began? Because I cook most weeknights, I always need extra hands to get dinner on the table, and because my daughter is often looking for attention at the dinner hour, I am making it a point to designate her my official helper. Hopefully, her memories will be equally as fond.
It won't be productive for me to hand her a fake task with a pretend tool; at 7 she is too savvy for that. She wants to use the same tools I use and cook the actual foods we will eat. I can't ask her to safely dice an onion and saute it over high heat, but there are loads of cooking tasks a child can undertake. Here is my guide for getting your kids into the kitchen.
Younger than 2
At this age, it is all about exposure. Let them watch you from a safe spot such as a high chair, a playpen or a blanket on the kitchen floor away from hot pans and spills. Give them unbreakable kitchen tools such as wooden spoons and plastic measuring cups. If they are stable standing on a stool, they can rinse produce and "wash" plastic containers in the sink under cold water.
Ages 2 to 3
Before cooking, always ask your child to wash her hands; this is an important habit to teach. If working at the counter or in the sink, children should stand on a stable stool that is about a foot off the ground. Expect mess. Little children are completely unconcerned about the state of the kitchen floor, and their coordination might propel ingredients toward undesirable locations.
Tear leafy greens
Break broccoli and cauliflower into pieces
Rinse and drain beans
Brush vegetables with oil using a pastry brush
Spread butter or cream cheese onto bread or a bagel with a dull knife.
Whisk, with your help
Crack an egg, with your help
Carry ingredients from place to place
Throw things in the trash (surprisingly fun at this age)
Baked goods tend to be fun as every kid enjoys a cupcake or cookie at the end of their hard work. But you can also give children this age fake tasks, as they probably won't notice and will learn just as much measuring, pouring and stirring items such as beans, oatmeal or flour.
Ages 4 to 6
At this stage, they can begin to use real cooking tools, although they should still stay away from a hot stove or oven.
Stir mixed ingredients
Peel oranges, grapefruits and hard-boiled eggs
Juice lemons and limes
Empty a bowl using a spatula
Grease a baking pan
Measure ingredients, with assistance
Use a mixer, with assistance
Turn the blender on and off, with you nearby
Set the table
Fill the dishwasher with soap and push start
Turn on a kitchen timer
Early knife skills: use a dull knife to cut soft items such as bananas. Begin by explaining the rules such as grown-ups retrieve and carry the knives, kids use a dull knife to chop only the items you tell them are safe, and only with you nearby.
Cookies, cupcakes and other baked treats are easy and appealing for beginner cooks, but if you want to avoid an overload of sugar, make dips such as hummus, guacamole or tzatziki. Other ideas include granola and yogurt parfaits with fruit and nut toppings, salads, dressings and mashed potatoes.