Make the Most of Time at Home: Engage Kids in the Kitchen

AMES, Iowa-- Parents across Iowa have found themselves and their children with more time on their hands. Put those hands to work by getting children involved in the kitchen. It is a great way to teach healthy eating, basic cooking skills and food safety, as well as math and reading. Nutrition and wellness experts at Iowa State University Extension and Outreach are offering tips and resources to engage kids in the kitchen.
“When children assist with cooking, they learn creativity, responsibility and self-esteem. They learn to make healthy choices and get excited about trying new foods,” said Ruth Litchfield, professor and nutrition and wellness extension state specialist. “Invite your child to help with the following age-appropriate activities in the kitchen.”
Children ages 3-5 can:

  • Tear lettuce for a salad.
  • Press cookie cutters when making cookies.
  • Mix simple measured ingredients such as salt and flour.
  • Snap green beans.
  • Help wash produce (watch the video).
  • Wipe table tops.

Children ages 3-5 can help tear and wash the lettuce for this Spend Smart Eat Smart recipe, Chicken BLT Salad.
Children ages 6-7 can:

  • Peel fruits and vegetables with child safe peeler.
  • Measure ingredients.
  • Stir and mix ingredients.
  • Break cauliflower, broccoli or other similar vegetable into pieces.
  • Mash potatoes or bananas with a masher.
  • Pour liquids (not hot).
  • Spread soft spreads.
  • Set the table.

Children ages 6-7 can help prepare this Spend Smart Eat Smart Fruit Pizza ( watch the video).
Children 8-9 can:

  • Open canned items with a can opener.
  • Juice citrus fruits.
  • Cut parsley and green onions with child-safe scissors.
  • Beat eggs.
  • Pound chicken on a cutting board.
  • Form meatballs or burgers.
  • Peel oranges or hard cooked eggs.

Children ages 8-9 can help form the meatballs for these Spend Smart Eat Smart Meatballs.
Children 10 and older can:

  • Chop vegetables.
  • Bake food in the oven.
  • Simmer foods on the stove.
  • Microwave foods.

Children age 10 and older can make Chicken and Vegetable Packets (watch this USDA video).
“Make sure you teach children about food safety while cooking,” added Sarah Francis, associate professor and nutrition and wellness extension state specialist. “Show them how to wash their hands properly, clean surfaces and take food temperatures.”  
For more information, watch “Include Children in the Kitchen,” a video presentation from ISU Extension and Outreach.
Engaging Kids in the Kitchen


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