Cooking with young children

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Many families with young children are often faced with the challenge of needing to prepare quick, healthy, tasty meals on a pushed schedule. Add to the task that picky eating behavior is common for many children ages 2 – 5. They may eat only a certain type of food or refuse foods based on texture or color. Making time to include children in cooking activities can provide many benefits.

Research shows that children who cook are more willing to try new foods. Cooking with children is a way to promote their future health by teaching them how to prepare healthy meals. Let them be involved with the whole process including meal planning, shopping and cooking. Child-size equipment, close supervision and activities that match the child’s developmental age are key.

Age Appropriate Cooking Activities

Here are ways that young children can help in the kitchen:

  • 2-Year-Olds Can:

Wipe tables

Tear lettuce greens

Wash fruits and vegetables

Carry ingredients from one place to another

  • 3-Year-Olds Can:

Mix or pour ingredients

Shake liquids in a covered container

Apply soft spreads

Place things in the trash

  • 4-Year-Olds Can:

Peel eggs and some fruits, such as oranges and bananas

Cut parsley and green onions with kid-safe scissors

Set the table

Help make sandwiches and tossed salads

  • 5-Year-Olds Can:

Measure ingredients

Use an egg beater

Show children how to properly wash their hands and let them know it isn’t safe to eat dough and batters with raw eggs.

For some kid-friendly recipes, check out this post from South Dakota State University Extension.

by Ann Schwader, SDSU Extension Program Assessment & Reporting Coordinator

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