This is Part 3 in a series exploring how you can bring your kids in to the kitchen and help them explore the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of home cooking! Visit Part 1 and Part 2 to learn how infants and toddlers can get their own little slice of kitchen magic.
Why Cook with Kids?
Introducing your kids to cooking at a young age helps to stimulate all their senses and build valuable life skills. Cooking with kids can:
- Encourage them to be more adventurous eaters by exposing them to new foods and allowing them to be part of the process of selecting and preparing meals.
- Build self-confidence by showing them they can help feed their family.
- Teach math (measuring and weighing), reading (reading a recipe and food labels), and science (cooking = chemical reactions!)
- Deepen your family bonds by teaching kids about your family’s traditions and history.
- Expose your kids to other cultures through their foods.
Your Master Chef Preschooler
Is your preschooler ready for a promotion in the kitchen? They certainly are expert eaters by this age! Many 4 and 5 year olds will be excited to help a parent prepare a meal for the whole family. And they may be ready to take on more tasks in the kitchen with you, but remember, they still need to be closely supervised at all times.
Your 4 or 5 year old can help you with:
Soft ingredients (like ripe fruit, cooked vegetables, slices of bread) are great for little hands to practice cutting. Consider buying a child-safe knife like this, which is sharp enough to cut food, but not too sharp that it will cut skin.
It's never too early to start teach your child good knife skills. Check out this great YouTube video for Chef Ann Butler. While your 4 or 5 year old may be too young to fully grasp these techniques, the concepts (like, the knife is a TOOL, not a TOY) are great to introduce at this age.
Using a peeler to take the skin off fruits & veggies is another great task for this age group. Carrots, potatoes, parsnips, all of these can be fun for kids to disrobe! Remember, the peeler should always go away from the body, not towards it, to help avoid cuts!
Similar to a peeler, using a grater will help build some strong muscles on your child! Soft foods, like cheese, will be easier at first. Teach your child to tuck their fingers in (just like when using a knife) to help prevent nicks and cuts.
Not the cleanest task in the kitchen, but your little one will love the challenge of trying to crack eggs. Whether they use the side of the bowl or the counter top, the first time your child successfully gets all the egg in the bowl (and leaves the shell out!) they will be beaming!
Your 4 or 5 year old is the perfect pint-sized helper to form patties, whether it's with burgers, cookies, or pieces of dough. The patting is not the hard part, it's forming even size pieces.
Set The Table
See what kinds of amazing animal-shaped napkins your kid can come up with when they set the table! Have your child set out plates, napkins, knives, forks and cups for everyone in the family. It's a great task they can repeat daily and really have ownership over.