Tips for Kids in the Kitchen

Practical tips for cooking and baking with kids in the kitchen, with suggestions for beginner recipes, too.

Dear Readers, I know that this particular March is bringing up a lot of feels.

It’s been a full year of pandemic life. We still have our ups and downs, as we adapt and work to build resilience. However, there are many benefits to this season as well, as I’ll share below.

Since so many of us are cozy at home for March/Spring break, I wanted to take this opportunity to encourage you to get the kids in the kitchen. Around here we have tradition of Spring Break Cooking Camp in the Simple Bites kitchen – so join us!

What I’ve Learned About Kids in the Kitchen

Years ago, when my children were tiny, I remember flipping through a cute kid’s cookbook that began with a ‘recipe’ for cooking with toddlers.

“1 Gallon of Patience. 1 Pinch of Expectations…”

I don’t remember the rest of the recipe, but the author was accurately describing the requirements for welcoming little ones into the kitchen.

This past year, my children – now ages 15, 13 and 9! – have been in the kitchen a lot more than usual. Honestly, it’s been lovely to have more time for cooking and baking lessons.

Our projects have included classic crepes, the best doughnuts, artful floral focaccia, crisp cocoa meringues and much more.

Together we measure and stir, roll and bake, fry and frost, all the while learning, laughing and bonding.

As a cookbook author and food creative, I’m essentially always in the kitchen In many way, my children have grown up their too.

Today I’m sharing what I’ve learned over the past decade about kids in the kitchen. Boy, we’ve had some delicious adventures.

Kids Need to Feel They Belong

Everything from A-Z can be taught, but the feeling of belonging in the heart of the home must be impressed upon children from the beginning.

My kiddos are by no means master chefs but they do find comfort and joy in the kitchen and that is what’s important to me. I’d hate if they were highly skilled, but found cooking dinner to be a chore.

Starting from toddlerhood, I’ve taken every care to make them feel welcome alongside me as I chop and stir. Yes, there have been days when I have to fake it, but I’ve never regretted a baking session. Ever.

Our kids need to feel like the kitchen is a safe space to make mistakes. When they are comfortable doing so, they will learn. And as they learn and develop skills, their confidence will emerge.

All Bakers are Not Created Equal

In my experience, each child approached cooking and baking from different angles. I have a cookbook-reading baker, a cautious cook and an enthusiastic little chemist who turns everything upside down.

You’ll need to observe and figure out what works well for your child. One you assess their skill level (and attention span!) you can assign tasks at their ability level.

Kids Don’t Want to Be Rushed

Take your time. Don’t rush anyone. These days it’s wonderful to have ample time to cook – and teach – instead of the frequent rush that used to be daily life with a zillion calendar events.

Kids Can Learn Organizational Skills in the Kitchen

Teach them the steps of a kitchen project, from washing hands to clean-up. They WILL eventually make these steps into habits.

Read through the recipe. Discuss. Assemble the ingredients and tools. Having everything within reach before they begin will help our little chefs to cook and bake safely and efficiently.

They’re Kids, Not Adults

Try to relax and let the small stuff slide when your teens and tweens are trashing the kitchen. (It happens!). It’s just food; so what if it’s uneven, wobbly, or a bit burned?

Accept that learning involves making mistakes. Don’t expect perfection from your little chefs and heap praise upon them all along the way.

Kids Love to Get Their Hands in Dough

Playing with dough of any kind has always held my children’s attention. If they can eat the end result, then it’s a sure thing they will stick around to help.

From as early as age 3 or 4, I taught them to roll out the dough and cut shapes out of it. We can’t always be baking sweets, and so a rolled cracker is a great alternative to cookies.

Kids Just Want to Have Fun!

Relax, mom and dad, and let the kids taste, snack and nibble along the way. Look the other way when they lick the bowl, steal handfuls of chocolate chips and eat half the add-ins from those Chocolate Pretzel Monster Cookies. Trust me, it’s a lot more fun than policing all the time.

Kids in the Kitchen Can Clean Too

Do your kids a huge favour and don’t let them skip the dishes. Practice kitchen clean up together once those Oatmeal Spice Muffins are in the oven. It’s vital to learn the importance of cleaning up after yourself at an early age.

Kids Care about the Earth

Once you start looking, there are a thousand little ways we can make environmentally friendly choices in the kitchen. Regrowing vegetable scraps are one of our favourites.

This simple kitchen project started as a way to demonstrate to my daughter Clara how not all vegetable scraps need to end up the compost bin – many can sprout again if given the chance.

I love a good lesson from the kitchen, especially if it promotes food sustainability. Stopping food waste is a simple concept kids can easily grasp.

kids in the kitchen

Let’s Get the Kids in the Kitchen!

So you see, the effects of this nurturing, one-on-one time in the kitchen are life-long. By touching the food, talking about it, and watching it come alive under their hands, our children are learning to appreciate whole foods and the satisfaction of scratch cooking and baking.

Keep up the kitchen time with the kids. You can be sure that it will igniting a love of nourishing whole food that will last a lifetime.

I’d love to hear any tips that you have for getting kids in the kitchen. Share your wisdom in the comments.

About Aimee

Cooking has always been Aimée's preferred recreational activity, creative outlet, and source of relaxation. After nearly ten years in the professional cooking industry, she went from restaurant to RSS by trading her tongs and clogs for cookie cutters and a laptop, serving as editor here at Simple Bites. Her first book, Brown Eggs and Jam Jars - Family Recipes from the Kitchen of Simple Bites, was published in February 2015.

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  1. A great theme for a new cookbook ? Enjoy all your advice – I’m cooking with the grands now!

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  3. This is a great post! Getting my kids in the kitchen is really important to me too! You have a lot of great tips.

  4. Stephanie O says

    The tone of this piece is so welcoming and kind. I wish I’d felt supported and encouraged in my early days trying to learn how to cook and bake. Here’s to your sensitivity and genuine desire to help young ones gain confidence and have fun while mastering important life skills in the kitchen!

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