Posted by: ad65shorty | June 2, 2009

Kids in the Kitchen

So, I scoured the internet tonite looking for some ideas for getting your children involved in the kitchen, and I hate to say it, but my searched pretty much turned up empty. So, today, you’re stuck with me and my experience with a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, and my own personal childhood.


rolling out cookies

I love to bake, and as I mentioned in a previous post, I love baking with my children. My mom used to let my brothers and I help her in the kitchen, which brings positive, warm memories to mind. So, of course, having my children in the kitchen with me is a given. They could watch, but I like to get them involved!


exploring and learning

exploring and learning

From the time my children could sit on their own (and even before–they’d just lay in the bouncy seat), they would be involved in the kitchen. I’d sit my little ones in their high chair, bring it close, and talk about what I was doing. I’d let them smell the different ingredients I was preparing. I’d let them touch the different textures and play with those things on the high chair (flour is a great one for this). And, as they grew, they got to taste the different things, as appropriate. (I also do this as I’m shopping in the produce section of the grocery store.)


I now have an almost 2-year-old, who LOVES to be involved in just about everything I am doing. She is my “little shadow” and follows me around everywhere, copying what I am doing. It’s adorable! So, I have to be creative in order to keep her safe, but involved.

making a surprise picnic for brother

making a surprise picnic for brother

Even though she’s 2, I still like to keep her close by so she doesn’t topple off the chair pulled near the counter or touch the stovetop or put her hand in the moving beaters. When she’s helping, I usually gather all the ingredients and measuring spoons/cups and bowls to one spot beforehand, then I can stay close by. I measure them out, once again, talking talking talking about I’m doing, and then I help HER dump them into the bowl by placing my hand over hers and guiding it. Sometimes we miss a little; we just get creative by adding a bit more into the mix! 🙂 She is also a GREAT taster!

My toddler likes to stir things so I help guide her hand in the correct motion. If having your toddler mix is too much, you could always put a little bit of the ingredients in her own bowl and let her mix that instead. (I always have my children wear aprons!) My toddler loves to mix the juice and chop up the chunks.

Toddlers can also help by throwing away their dirty napkins or wiping up spills with a towel. They can also put napkins or silverware on the table with a little guidance. I usually have the plates laid out first, and then guide them by saying that each plate needs a napkin. I count out the exact amount because extras confuse them, and point to each plate as the napkins are placed (one-to-one correspondence; great skill).

Toddlers can rinse the soap off of clean dishes and use a towel to “dry” them. You may have to dry them completely afterwards, but they do a pretty good job.

Toddlers are also really good at tearing lettuce (who would’ve thought?!). My son LOVED doing this at this age! I would usually show him how big or small to make the pieces and let him go at it. He developed a love for the taste of lettuce by doing this.


Love this age! They are becoming more independent and really want to help! They love to feel important. Tonite, in fact, I said, “I need help getting the table set,” and my son RAN down the stairs saying, “That’s me!” He got straight to work, finding the needed items. It was great!

Preschoolers can do a lot of things. I will list a few that we do in our house, but know that this list is not complete.

frosting a cookie

frosting a cookie

Preschoolers can spread butter or peanut butter on a piece of bread. It doesn’t always reach the edges, but that will come with time. My son also likes to get the items out of the fridge for his sandwich at lunchtime.

Preschoolers can pour liquids from a small pitcher into a cup or bowl. Expect spills; that’s just a part of childhood.

Preschoolers are good at preparing plates or counting out items to go on the table. For example, after I make a sandwich, my son can place it on the plate and then count out 5 grapes. He can also do this for his sister’s plate, as well. They can also help with small dinner preparations like putting a salad together (veggies already cut).

Preschoolers can set a table. If you want it done the “right way” though, be sure to show him what you expect. My sister-in-law likes her napkins folded below each fork. I like the fork on top of the napkin next to the plate. The first few times, he put the napkin on top of our plates! haha

Preschoolers can definitely “clear their places,” as we call it in our house. They can throw their napkins and extra food on their plate in the garbage, and then take their dishes to the sink. Be sure to discuss that the dishes need to be placed nicely into the sink and not dropped (especially full cups of liquid!).

mixing the apples, cinnamon, and water

mixing the apples, cinnamon, and water

Preschoolers can stir juice or mixes with little assistance. Preschoolers are also pretty good at dumping items into a bowl without spilling.

Preschoolers can roll balls of cookie dough and space them evenly on the cookie sheet.

Preschoolers can put clean silverware away in the drawer. What a great way to reinforce sorting! We keep all the kid dishes on a low shelf in our house so my kids can also help empty the dishwasher. My son also enjoys “washing” the dishes. I will fill the sink up with warm, soapy water, and he uses the sponge to get all the food off.

Preschoolers are good at helping at the grocery store, too. They can find low items on a shelf or produce and put them carefully into the cart. They can also help carry the groceries into the house afterwards and help empty the bags.


Grade-schoolers can do just about anything you need. They can even help prepare a side dish at dinner or get their own breakfast. When I was nine, we were in a situation in my family where I had to help out with the dinner preparations–not just the preps, but in making it! My mom guided me from the couch. I remember going to a friend’s house in 5th or 6th grade and being amazed that she didn’t know how to make soup from a can!

They should be able to help with the dishes and the clearing of the table. They can help prepare a menu and grocery list.

Kids can and should be able to make good food choices. The more involved they are in the kitchen, the better habits they will learn throughout their lives. Here’s a great blog on helping your children make good food choices:


I found this article on education in the kitchen that I thought I’d share, too:


My best advice: Let them watch you, teach them by talking them through each step, let them try and make mistakes, add more responsibility a little at a time, and be patient!

Any other ideas?


  1. I love kids helping in the kitchen!! It seems like we did so much more at such an earlier age. I sware I remember making scrambled eggs in kindergarten. Now, I think I need to make everything for my kids. Its a good reminder to have them work with you, and then on their own.

  2. Amy,

    Thanx for your comment. I almost called you last night for some advice on getting your grade-schoolers involved (a guest post would have been better, but you know…). How’d I do?! 🙂

    Anyway, I did link to you because your site is fabulous about helping kids be involved independently in making good food choices. Thanx for all the inspiration!

    Angee 🙂

  3. I don’t know if it is still in print but I am teacher and I always used a great cookbook called Cook and Learn. Each recipe was to make an individual portion of things and it had picture recipes cards you could copy and make. Each child makes their own and gets to eat it. They loved it and learned responsibility in terms of the fact that if they didn’t follow the recipe, their own portions didn’t turn out.

  4. Sarah,

    That sounds like a great book! I think I found it through Barnes & Noble, although it is currently out of stock.

    Here’s the link, if anyone is interested:

    What a great way to help children learn about following a recipe! Thanx for sharing!

    Angee 🙂

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