How To Start Kids Helping In The Kitchen!

If you have kids, then I’m sure you’ve had the breakfast/lunch/snack/dinnertime battle of needing to make food but having a hard time doing so while keeping your little one occupied at the same time. Or maybe you just love baking/cooking and want your little one to join in on the fun with you as an activity you can do together! Either way, getting kids and toddlers helping in the kitchen is a great way to keep them occupied and have them learn to help around the house and develop a sense of pride in a new skill as well.

Before we go any further, let me say that this does involve letting kids use different kinds of objects that may be sharp or have the possibility of cutting skin. If you don’t feel like that’s your thing, then some of these suggestions may not be for you and that’s OK. I remember feeling so nervous when we were starting to let Lola use kid scissors and it freaked me out that she could indeed cut herself with them at some point. Even though it scared me, I also wanted her to be able to learn the skill, so we just forged ahead and kept showing her the proper way to hold them, carry them, where to keep her other hand so it didn’t get in the way of the blades. Now she cuts like a champ and you can tell how cool she thinks it is that she can cut paper like a big kid. Even with all that though, we still store the scissors up high away from her reach and make sure she’s only using them when we are right there with her. It’s basically the same thing for learning stuff in the kitchen as far as our comfort level goes. It’s always supervised (and very closely so in the beginning and with small kids) and as they get older and better you loosen the reins until they can do it all by themselves.

That being said, here’s what we’ve done with our 3-year-old to have her help at home:

Start them off small/age appropriate: Depending on what age your child is, you can have them simply help dump in ingredients and stir, or have them start with cutting very soft foods with dull cheese spreaders (like bananas or peeled cucumbers), or harder items like coring apples and chopping carrots. I will say that the age range for when to use what items is pretty wide, as it depends on that kid’s motor skills and parent’s comfort levels. But I would say cutting soft fruits can start around 12 months and using the bigger knives to cut slightly harder items like peppers and celery can be closer to age 2 (they may not be super good at it yet but they can start!). Kids older than that can start cutting harder foods and focus more on keeping their cuts the same size (something that’s a little harder for smaller kids to focus on).

I also found that it can be a lot easier for them to cut certain fruits and veggies just by changing what angle they are cutting them. For example, things like apple slices and pepper sticks can be a good food to practice cutting on once they use a bigger kid knife, but it’s a lot easier to cut if you turn the slice on its side so the tough skin isn’t on the top or the bottom and it’s easier to cut through. You can make up a little song or a phrase, but basically you are teaching them to keep their holding fingers out of the way of any blades and to push down and pull back to cut things. Especially in the beginning, I would cut things into thin strips first and then give them to Lola to practice on.

Use the right tools: You don’t necessarily need special tools for the stirring/dumping of ingredients part unless you think a set of utensils in their favorite color will help get them excited to cook. Little toddlers can even use things like small rounded dip spreaders to cut soft foods and then graduate to a crinkle cutter to cut bananas and cucumbers into slices. We used this plastic knife set when it was time for Lola to start using the next level of cutting and it’s nice that it comes with three sizes (so you can have multiple kids helping or just have bigger sizes for them to grow into). I also recommend having a cutting board with a non-slip bottom to keep the board from sliding around as they are trying to cut.

Apple corers like these are also fun for kids to use (although they may need a bit of help pushing down until they are strong enough). Having a small step stool is enough for taller/older kids, but toddlers may need a higher perch so they’ll be able to really press down on what they are cutting with their body weight. I made this tower for Lola a few years back and we still use it often (this is a nice one if you don’t want to DIY one and it’s adjustable too). Having things like aprons with their name or favorite characters on them can also help kids feel more “official” in the kitchen (this is Lola’s sweet apron).

Have appropriate expectations: I would not start this process the night you are hosting a dinner party and want everything to be perfect! Placing several items out to cut during a more chill snack time is a good way to start, and remember that especially with young kids their attention span isn’t always very long, so don’t expect 20 minutes of furious chopping the first few sessions—it make take a few sessions before they get into it. I don’t think Lola was super impressed with cutting food as it was hard for her at first, so I had to keep encouraging her until she was able to cut more easily and build a little confidence.

Same thing goes for baking—where you may not have their full attention for the whole mixing process if it takes a while, so you can either prep first and have all the ingredients ready for them to dump in and stir (just like a prepped cooking show!) or you can have some play dough or coloring on the counter so they have something to do while you get each next ingredient. Also, it’s really hard for small kids to help cut food and not sneak a taste here and there, so I usually resign myself to the fact that I’ll need to put out extra food to cut if we are chopping things for dinner as it may not all make it into the pan …

Foster a sense of pride in the culinary creations: Once we get to the eating part of the cooking, I always try and make a big deal to Todd or whoever else is at the table that Lola helped with the meal and point out exactly which things she stirred/chopped. You can see her face light up and it’s fun to see how proud she is to have contributed. Ask your little ones if they want to help bake a treat for someone you know (share a few with them first of course) and gush over how they helped make it when you drop it off at their house. Kids love to be helpful and feel like they are doing things just like the grown ups are!

Teach them more about how food is grown to get them more excited to cook: This one seems less related to cooking on the surface, but having them involved at even an earlier level can get them more connected to their food and therefore more excited to help prepare it later. Have them find some key items at the grocery store for you when you go to shop (you can draw or use photos of items if they are too little to read), get them involved in growing some garden items at home in containers or a raised bed, or take advantage of your local crops at places where you can pick your own produce in season and then take your haul back to make goodies with at home.

Wherever your comfort lies with kids in the kitchen, having them be a helper in general is a great way to keep them occupied while you cook, teach them a new skill and patience, connect them more to the food they eat, and involve them in helping with the family tasks around the house. It may not always be perfect, and I can’t guarantee that having kids help won’t ever be messy or more work at times, but I think the effort is worth it. And who knows—maybe someday you’ll get a homemade chocolate soufflé one year for Mother’s Day! 🙂 xo. Laura

P.S. I love that pink ceramic pot—so cute to cook in!

Credits // Author and Photography: Laura Gummerman. Photos edited with A Color Story Desktop.
    • Sometimes. But happy to link another resource for the items in this post if you have one you’d like to share.

      I did appreciate your feedback in the past about linking Amazon for books. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see but we’ve been choosing to link to Indie Bound instead. I think you had a great point and so we made a change. Thank you for that criticism, it was valuable.

  • You can get kitchen ware one million places; please don’t pretend you don’t know this. You can get anything anywhere else; no one has to do that research for you. Why do you plan to link? Why is that necessary? What are you reading and investigating about Amazon; if anything at all, you would hopefully make the choice to not link period.

    After many comments from me and others, you finally admitted in the house flipping post that you had a pod affiliation with Amazon; that it paid an employee’s salary. It took you a ridiculous amount of time to own this; it was only after being pushed and pushed. Are you still affiliated?

    I commented on a post not that long ago with an incredibly powerful and potent graphic illustrating Jeff Bezos’s harmful wealth. Are you truly not aware of how Amazon treats it’s employees, its impact on the environment and communities, and capitalistic greed? You claim to being doing background learning on racism; how are you unaware of Amazon’s ires, and if you are, why would you make the careless choice to “sometimes link”? Your game of safe and palatable choices that reek of carelessness is disturbing.

    • Yes, we use Amazon affiliate links. We use other affiliate link programs as well. And yes, a percentage of our earrings from the affiliate programs we use goes to members of our full time staff.

  • I love this, it’s so great to get kids involved. I need to have my 15 month old helping soon! Also, it’s ultimately up to the consumer where they buy from. I appreciate seeing what you recommend in the links.

    • Perfect comment!! we are all human beeings, responsible for our own actions! So i decide myself were i buy things and what I can afford and so should you all too. The ABM Team does not have power over my decisions.
      I am here for over 10 years now because i LOVE their style and the work they are doing, because its honest and great. And they are doing a lot of research and thinking, which is not a requirement to own a bussiness…so its an extra work they are willing to do and thats great!

      Keep going! You are great!!and its a nice thing to see how you are evolving and thats what makes this a good (not only positiv, but good place on the internet) …and keep spreading your progressive vibes…we need a lot of successfull and confident women in this world…

  • These comments from MJ are a little over the top.. I agree that varying links to other sites besides Amazon is good (I’m trying to use them less too), but it completely baffles me that someone would have this much time and ill will to troll a DIY blog. Seems like she should be volunteering somewhere with all this free time and social consciousness.

    I’ve enjoyed your blog for a decade now. Started reading in college and came back to be a regular reader again when I visited a local restaurant/bar and realized you were the owners.
    Thanks for infusing beauty and creativity into your readers’ lives and don’t let the haters get you down! 😉

  • Yes to all of the cooking tips! My not yet 2yo loves loves to crack eggs (just have them crack into a bowl that you can then pour into the mixing bowl). Mushrooms are also a great starter for cutting practice. I find my kiddo eats more veggies when he gets to help chop them.

  • Emma, I know you were a philosophy major. Have you considered how many of these comments calling out MJ are logical fallacies? Do you see how many strawmen arguments go down in your comments section on here and Instagram every day? I could start a collection of the textbook cases. They’re all here: slippery slope, ad hominem, tu quoque, etc. I never thought you were one to dismiss critical thinking because it hurts your feelings. You say you’re open to change and that you want to learn, yet calls to consider the ethics of your business are written off as bullying.

    I know you’re an avid reader, so would you consider looking into a book called “Conflict is Not Abuse”? I think the philosophy major in you might enjoy it. Consider this quote:

    “Whether through supremacy or trauma, we are unable to question ourselves. Perhaps because the person has been so belittled and violated by an authority figure or an oppressive system, they don’t have enough stability of self to face the conflict created by difference. The refusal to look at the order of events is a kind of ‘dissociative’ state, a level of anxiety about being challenged that is so high that they can’t even remember what the actual conflict is about, and don’t want to be reminded either. All they know is they feel threatened. What really happened is unreachable. In other words, it is a state of being unaccountable.”

    It’s disheartening to see your followers write off calls for critical thinking as bullying. Consider this quote from the same book:

    “If a person’s sense of self has been punctured, and they have not been willing or able to repair it, they may become intolerant of difference. They may confuse anxiety and vulnerability. They may exaggerate threat, overreact, seek the protection of bullies and shun others, and thereby become bullies themselves.”

    How often do we dehumanize those who call us to critical thinking, because of what they might reveal about us–that there is something in us that needs to be adjusted? You admit to profiting from Amazon affiliate links. I keep imagining how incredible it would be if you, as a massive influential business, could take it a step further and show your followers why it’s harmful and how you’ll divest from it as a business. It’s not about bullying, and it’s not about policing where individuals shop. It’s about your power to affect change as influencers. As multimillionaires. As mothers and wives and citizens of middle America.

    To me, MJ is asking, How much good could you do if you divested from affiliate marketing? You and Elsie are businesswomen. You’re extremely creative and resilient. You’ve pivoted so many times. And Amazon slashed their affiliate payouts anyway. Is it possible there could be a different way to pay your employees? And is it possible to mean it when you say you’re open to change and learning? If something is so known to be harmful, what is there to defend? And why is it seen as a character judgment, when it’s really not?

    It’s just not 2010 anymore. These are difficult conversations to have, and I have empathy for you. But please, please consider that you have a lot of power, and what you say and do counts. What will you do with that power?

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