Cooking can help young kids learn and practice some basic math concepts and build
language skills. And the experience of creating meals with you can help build their
self-confidence and lay the foundation for healthy eating habits.
It may take a little flexibility and some simple prep work, but with the right
expectations, your time in the kitchen with your preschooler can be a culinary adventure
you'll both enjoy.
How Cooking Can Help Preschoolers
Bringing kids into the kitchen can benefit them in a number of ways. Cooking can
Build basic skills. You can help your child hone basic math skills
by doing something as simple as counting eggs or pouring water into a measuring
cup. You can ask what comes first, second, and third or count together as you spoon
dough onto a cookie sheet. When you read a recipe together, you're introducing new
words to your child's vocabulary and promoting literacy. Following steps in the recipe
can work on listening skills.
Encourage an adventurous palate. Preschoolers are notoriously
picky eaters, and bringing them into the kitchen to cook can help get them to open
up to new tastes. When your 3-year-old daughter plays chef she might sample dishes
she wouldn't try if you just served them to her. So encourage kids to taste new ingredients
you're working with and talk about what they like and how healthy foods make a body
Help young kids explore with their senses. Kids learn by exploring
with their senses and the kitchen is an ideal place to do that. Invite them to listen
to the whir of the mixer, pound dough and watch it rise, smell it baking in the oven,
and finally taste the warm bread fresh from the oven. If it smells good, looks appealing,
and is easy to eat they may just be willing to try it!
Boost confidence. Preschoolers love to show what they can do
and working in the kitchen provides opportunities to gain a sense of accomplishment.
If they helped assemble the pizza, let them know that their help was important.
You could name the pizza or another dish after your child. Serve "Will's Pizza" or
"Ella's Salad" for dinner tonight. Even if the end results are not exactly what you
expected, praise their efforts.
Ideal Jobs for Preschoolers in the Kitchen
A few tasks in the kitchen are particularly well-suited to kids ages 3 to 5. The
key is to give them "jobs" that meet their skill level and are something they enjoy.
So if your child loves to pound, bring out the bread dough and let your preschooler
Here are some other ways kids can help:
stirring pancake batter
tearing lettuce for salad
assembling a pizza
helping you "read" a cookbook by turning the pages
From riding a tricycle to getting dressed, preschoolers are learning how much they
can do all by themselves.
So look for a few cooking-related activities that your child can successfully
complete independently or with a minimum of involvement from you. Simple tasks like
pouring liquid into the bowl, sprinkling cheese on top of the casserole, or using
cookie cutters are a good fit for most preschoolers.
Don't plan an elaborate project — 5 to 10 minutes might be all your child
wants to spend on an activity. Start small and keep it fun.
As kids grow, they will develop the skills, attention span, and interest to do
bigger cooking jobs, like squeezing the juice out of a lemon, measuring ingredients
into cups and spoons, and beating eggs or mashing potatoes.
Preschoolers will also enjoy learning with you. For safety reasons, you should
be in the kitchen with them at all times, supervising and monitoring progress.
Spending time in the kitchen with your kids can foster an interest in food
and cooking that will last for life!