5 Things Your Elementary Age Kids Can Do With You in the Kitchen

by Nicole Hempeck on April 27, 2021

Getting your kids in the kitchen doesn’t have to be stressful. It can be an opportunity that results in a positive experience for your both. It will result in a child that not only participates and contributes to the family efforts, but it will result in opening the doors of communication as you work together to create a family meal or clean up afterwards - so consider the five suggestions below for getting your kids working with you in the kitchen.

1.  Participate in Preparations

Depending on the age you started letting your little chef into the kitchen, that will determine exactly when they are ready for different aspects of the preparations. Additionally, each child matures, listens and follows directions in a different way. It’s up to you to decide what they’re ready for.

Where one child might lack impulse control and precision, another might be ready to tackle the task - use your best judgement and allow them to gradually take on more and more responsibility for the steps within the recipes.

2. Make Lunches

From the time the child begins school throughout the span of their high school years, they can be participating in the lunch making evolution. Whether they are fetching fruit snacks out of pantry or making the entire lunch themselves, they are capable of participating in some capacity.

This is not to say that there isn’t oversight necessary. Case in point, a friend of ours was letting her child pack their own lunch without much oversight. The dad decided one day to join their daughter for lunch at school only to find that she had packed several bags of chips as her lunch and nothing else. So, hang around as they pack their lunch and talk about what should go into their bags.

Additionally, you can work on the packing of your own lunch alongside them if you work outside of the home. This can work as a modeling tool to show solid nutrition and quality eating habits.

3. Load the Dishwasher

This is an activity in the kitchen that will require growth over time and oversight, but it’s one that many elementary age kids can join in on. They can rinse plates and hand them to you as you pack the dishwasher or vice versa.

Handling of certain delicate dishes or knives should be done by the parent until you feel confident they are responsible enough to avoid breakage or harm, but otherwise, this is a responsibility they can grow into and do with you as you converse over the happenings of the day.

4. Set and Watch Timers

A lesson in math and time can be implemented by having your child act as timer for the cooking process. This can be one of several jobs they take in the kitchen during the act of preparing a meal.

You can use it as a teachable moment where you discuss the number of seconds within a minute, minutes within an hour, etc. You can also teach them how to work the oven and microwave timers and controls if you feel they are responsible enough to learn those things.

5. Put Away and Set Up Serving Dishes

Clean dishes can be put away and dinner tables can be set by your elementary school age child. They will be glad to set the table for the family and prepare it for a meal together. Use the opportunity to teach them proper etiquette for table setting - a past time that is fast being lost.

Additional Quick Tips:

  • Gather materials together in advance of cooking time.
  • Communicate ahead of time which tools and equipment they should be using.
  • Set expectations at the beginning.
  • Make tasks short and sweet due to short attention spans.
  • Involve children in the clean up as you go along to prevent mess as well as injury due to mess.

How do you involve your kids in the kitchen? 

Image: Theodore W. Lee

Quick Tips Source: Everyday Food Storage

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Busy Kids = Happy Mom April 27, 2021 at 5:51 am

Love it! Just pinned it to my life skills board! I think one of the key things to realize too is they’re not going to learn it overnight! My kids can unpack the dishwasher reasonably well now, because they’ve been doing it for 2 years. I tried to teach “how to make mac and cheese” last summer- my son thought he was done after making it once. :) - who knew just boiling the water would be such a lesson!

Rebecca April 27, 2021 at 8:33 am

Great tips! I’ve done this with my son since he’s was little, he’s 11 now and considers himself a “chef”. He loves to eat and is always willing to try new food experiences, which can be rare in kids.

Lisa @ Two Bears Farm April 27, 2021 at 8:48 am

My 5 year old really enjoys making cookies, and he LOVES to do the toppings on pizza!

Pauline April 28, 2021 at 5:02 pm

Great advice! I don’t want to make the same mistakes I made with my daughters with my son. The girls stressed me out so much I kicked them out of the kitchen. I don’t think I prepared them well for independent life. I will do better with my son!

MeLisa April 28, 2021 at 8:53 pm

I wish I could get my elementary age kids to help with the dishes. Sadly, however my teens and tweens still can’t do a good job. I won’t give up. These kids are going to learn basic life skills whether or not they want to!

MomHomeGuide.com April 29, 2021 at 6:25 am

I think it’s great to have little ones help in the kitchen from an early age — it’s fun for them, and they have pick up some skills and knowledge.

living The Scream April 29, 2021 at 11:19 am

These are great tips. All of my girls love to help me in the kitchen. I just wish mine was bigger. It is tiny and gets so crowded!

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