What age can kids start cooking? Everything you should know

What age can kids start cooking? From 10 years old? Or maybe 13? What about the dangers of using the cooker and hot saucepans and sharp knives. And the mess, oh the mess….

But cooking is not always about hot pans and sharp knives. There are lots and lots of things that kids from the age of 2 up can do in the kitchen that don’t involve heat and danger (ok, there will always be mess but if they’re playing with lego or their toys they make a mess too - it’s just part of being a kid!)

Getting kids involved with food from this tender age, or indeed any age, can help instil a life-long love of food, helps them make healthier choices, teaches a basic life skill as well as independence, fine motor skills and maths, gives them confidence, is a nice bonding activity … are you convinced yet?

Here’s an age-appropriate list of tasks that you can do with your children in (and out!) of the kitchen. My youngest started  using big knives from about the age of 6 and my 10 year old has been baking independently for about a year now (purely so she can scoff the lot!) but this may not work in every house!  These are only guidelines - you know your child best so they may be able for some things younger or older, depending on their capabilities.

But get them into the kitchen - it will pay off for you in the long run!

From age 2 - 3 approximately

  • mix cold ingredients (eg. whisk eggs, mix pancake batter, scone mix etc.)
  • rinse fruit and veg in the sink or in a basin 
  • roll their own dough, make shapes and use cookie cutters
  • pour liquid into dry ingredients
  • mash bananas for recipes that require them
  • use a pastry brush for doing an egg wash 
  • help with grocery shopping, choosing veg and fruit
  • examine vegetables (use a magnifying glass for more fun!)
  • cut soft fruit and veg with a child safe knife like the kiddies food kutter ( strawberries, bananas and cucumber)
  • play games and do art involving veg and fruit
  • help set the table

From age 4 - 6 approximately

  • all of the above plus
  • crack the eggs (you may get a bit of shell into your bowl but use a large piece of shell to take it out!)
  • grate cheese (supervised)
  • peel veg using a child-friendly peeler like the safety food peeler (cucumber, carrots, courgette)
  • cut hard veg like carrots and potatoes with the kiddies food kutter
  • mash potatoes or other veg
  • make their own sandwiches from ingredients provided
  • juice oranges and lemons
  • peel a hard boiled egg
  • roll power or energy balls
  • load and empty some things from the dishwasher
  • help set the table independently
  • use measuring cups for all sorts of ingredients 
  • help with clean up!

From age 7 - 10 approximately

  • all of the above plus
  • chop and peel all veggies and fruit
  • they will be reading by now so they should be able to follow simple recipes 
  • put food in the oven
  • make simple baked goods from scratch 
  • use a can opener, garlic crush, food processor
  • make smoothies independently 
  • help with most recipes, including at the cooker
  • make guacamole on their own (may need help slicing the avocado)
  • bread fish and chicken
  • make their own lunches

From 11 +

  • all of the above plus
  • start using proper knives (if ready to do so - they may be able to do this younger. My youngest started at age 6 using a proper knife!)
  • plan, prepare and cook a meal by themselves 
  • use all kitchen appliances (with supervision as required)
  • clean up after themselves (we have to hope!)
  • bake independently 

Happy cooking!

As a mum of 3, I know how difficult, challenging and difficult (worth saying twice!) it can be, feeding them a healthy, balanced diet. A couple of years ago, I left my full-time job and retrained as a Health and Nutrition Coach - much to the disgust of my children. My goal is to teach children about the joys of healthy eating (so yes, I know how difficult it is!) through my business, The Cool Food School (www.thecoolfoodschool.ie). I also like to run, drink coffee and ignore the housework.

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