As a toddler mom and former nanny, I love getting little ones involved in day to day kitchen activities! Though it may be messier and less “efficient” than doing it on my own, involving kids in cooking is fun and rewarding for everyone. Assigning my child a “job” in the kitchen gives her a sense of responsibility. She’s more active and engaged during mealtime, and more likely to try new foods she helped prepare! As a family we also value fresh, nutritious food and want to pass that along to future generations. What better way to help children understand the value of a home cooked meal than inviting their participation?

Start small.

You can begin by asking your children to help you with putting away groceries or fetching ingredients and supplies for a recipe. Put your non-breakable bowls and kitchen tools in the lower kitchen cabinets to make it even easier for the little ones! Streamline the process (and keep things a bit tidier) by preparing all your ingredients beforehand and then allowing your little one to combine them. This works great for recipes like soups and smoothies.

Older children can take on more kitchen duties.

Consider investing in a child’s size knife set like this one from local favorite Five Little Monkeys so they can chop fruits and vegetables. Invite children to take part in the meal planning process–let them suggest dishes or pick out a new recipe to try.

All members of your family team can participate.

If you’re a nanny, you can invite your charges to participate in preparing lunches and snacks. Cooking is also an excellent sensory experience and highly beneficial for children who are hesitant to try new foods or flavors.

Take your time and avoid being rushed.

It’s not about getting food on the table as quickly as possible. When you invite children into the kitchen, you’re on their time! Let the littles do things at their own pace. After all, this is about supporting their development and fostering a healthy relationship with food. Embrace the mess! 

Do you enjoy cooking with kids? Please share your favorite recipes in the comments!

Kaitlyn Carrow (Recruiting and Social Media Coordinator) lives in San Leandro, CA with her husband, toddler and greyhound. She enjoys sewing and riding bikes with her family.