Cooking with Kids of Different Ages

a mom and her daughter cooking in the kitchen
Cooking food together with kids lets you share food and cooking traditions and important food skills. If your kids get cooking now, chances are they will keep up this good habit as they grow older.

Read on for tips to get your kids cooking and get great recipes to try. Cooking with your:

Cooking with 2-3 year olds

Very young children like to explore with their senses of sight, touch, smell, hearing and tasting. They also like to do things on their own. Try letting your kids:

  • Wash fruits and vegetables in the sink
  • Add items to dishes (like chopped tofu to a casserole)
  • Smell food, herbs and spices you are using
  • Help find ingredients in the fridge or cupboard
  • Put paper cups into muffin tins

Keep in mind, some kids may be happy to watch you cook and talk about what you are doing. An empty pot on the floor with a spoon keeps their hands busy. Be sure to ask lots of questions about what they are making that smells so good!

Cooking with 3-4 year olds

At this age, children may be more interested in talking than eating! Either way, cooking keeps them interested in food. Try letting your kids:

  • Remove eggshells from hard-boiled eggs
  • Pour from a small pitcher or measuring cup
  • Make a simple sandwich or pizza with pre-assembled ingredients
  • Describe the colour, taste and shape of food
  • Mash sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots or bananas

Cooking with 4-6 year olds

At this age, some kids may show signs of being a picky eater. While the food they prepare might not make it to their fork, try to be patient knowing that cooking is helping them warm up to the idea of trying new foods. Try letting your kids:

  • Assemble foods: make trail mix or their own yogurt smoothie with toppings you've prepared
  • Stir ingredients together (like muffins, pancakes, sauces)
  • Slice soft-cooked vegetables, soft fruit, cheese or tofu with a plastic knife
  • Crack and beat an egg 
  • Cook with a friend for a fun play date

Cooking with 6-8 year olds

At this age, kids can follow simple steps for recipes and are able to share and take turns. Try letting your kids:

  • Use simple kitchen equipment such as a grater, toaster, blender or can opener after you show them how to do so safely
  • Make simple cold spring rolls or tortilla wraps
  • Toss salad ingredients together with salad dressing
  • Invent a fruit salad or smoothie recipe
  • Write a list of healthy snacks they like to eat
  • Write out a grocery list
  • Make a simple breakfast: whole grain cereal with milk or canned fruit over yogurt

Cooking with 8-11 year olds

Kids at this age are more coordinated and able to understand how to use appliances safely. Try letting your kids:

  • Use a knife with easy-to-cut foods (cooked meats, cheese, tofu, breads)
  • Use the microwave with your help
  • Make their own school lunch
  • Make a fresh fruit platter to go with dinner
  • Use the stove, with supervision, to make basic recipes: omelets, pancakes, quesadillas, soups or grilled cheese
  • Decide what is needed to balance out a meal so it has food from each food group

4 "Simply delish" recipe ideas

1. ABC123 pancakes

Fruit Sauce

Mix 3/4 cup frozen berries (raspberries and/or blueberries) with 1/3 cup maple syrup. By the time the pancakes are on the table, the fruit should be defrosted. You can also warm it up in the microwave.


Try mixing half multi-grain pancake mix (sold at bulk food stores) with your regular mix. You could also add 3-4 tablespoons (45-60 mL) of quick cooking oats per cup of pancake mix. You may need to add a little more milk to maintain the right consistency. Make pancake letters, numbers and even shapes. Make and freeze extra for a quick breakfast or snack.

For younger children: Talk about where the berries and maple syrup in the fruit sauce come from.

For older children: Talk about how maple syrup is made. You may be able to get a book about this at your library. Ask your children to tell you the food groups for each ingredient in the recipe.

2. Invent a smoothie

Kids can get creative inventing a smoothie! Remember, frozen fruits are just as nutritious as fresh, without the washing, peeling or cutting. Canned fruits packed in their own juices or with the light syrup drained off are good choices as well.


  • 2 cups (500 mL) milk or fortified soy milk
  • 2 cups (500 mL) fruit (any of: sliced banana, mango, nectarine, frozen raspberries, blueberries or strawberries, canned pineapple or peaches)
  • 1 cup (250 mL) ice cubes
  • 3/4 cup (175 mL) plain lower fat (2% M.F. or less) yogurt
  • 1/2 cup (125 mL) frozen orange juice concentrate

Makes 4 servings. Freeze any extra in Popsicle moulds.

For younger children: Let them peel bananas, wash fruit, add ingredients to the blender and create a wacky name for their smoothie.

For older children: Suggest they write out their recipes on cards, giving each a star rating based on a family taste test.

3. Cinnamon tortilla chips with fruity salsa

Cut whole wheat tortillas into wedges. Brush with very little water. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar and cinnamon. Place on a microwave safe plate lined with paper towel. Microwave on high for 1 minute and 30 seconds or until crisp. A pizza cutter works great for cutting the tortilla (pitas too) into wedges.

Prepare a fruity salsa for dipping by dicing whatever fruits you have on hand, or use applesauce.

For younger children: They can select and wash the fruit and later add the diced fruit into a small bowl and mix. 

For older children: With your supervision, they can cut the tortilla bread into wedges, as well as make the salsa.

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Last Update – October 25, 2021

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