As many find themselves home for hours more each week than ever before, food preparation moves into the limelight in more and more houses across the country. When trying to feed a family on a budget, the result can be a lot of stress, a mess to clean up, and children who learned nothing but frustration. There are ways to handle kid-time in the kitchen, and there is a multitude of helpful websites to help every step of the way, from making a shopping list to cleaning up the meal that was just devoured. Encourage children to take a role in meal prep and as they grow, they will develop a love of cooking. Each age group can focus on a set of skills that helps them play an active role in feeding the family and cuts down on boredom while also allowing them to feel some pride and accomplishment.
Ages 3-5: Pint-Size Helpers
At this stage of toddler-hood, children exert their independence and want to dive head-first into the world around them. Three, four, and five-year-olds have short attention spans and very little awareness of danger (think sharp knives or hot pans) and therefore, they cannot handle a lot of kitchen tasks; however, by getting them involved at a young age, they will learn quickly and many parents are surprised by just how much help their preschooler can be. The toddler age is a great time to have them wash produce, mash potatoes, tear lettuce, smash crackers, or knead dough.
- Teaching Kids to Cook (video): Watch an interesting video on just how much the younger crowd can do when given the proper tools.
- Preschool Helpers in the Kitchen: Get ideas for ways to involve preschoolers and babies when cooking in the kitchen.
Ages 5-7: Grade-School Sous Chefs
Children in early elementary school learn many skills that can be put to great use in the kitchen. They are now able to use scissors and have improved other fine motor skills. These increased skills mean they can take a more active role in meal prep for the family. There are some learning opportunities as well. Children can help set the table and learn about proper place settings or measure and count items as a math lesson on multiplication and fractions. They can practice reading by following along with simple recipes and reading each step. At this age, kids can also mix dry ingredients, crack eggs, roll cookie dough or meat, and chop softer fruits and veggies.
- Learning in Cooking Teach kids math and so much more with the help of these ideas.
- The Psychology of Kids in the Kitchen: A holistic child psychologist, Nicole Beurkens, talks about the benefits of having children help cook from an early age.
Ages 8-12: Budding Cooks
As preteens establish their own opinions and ideas, there is no doubt they will have some thoughts regarding their favorite or least-favorite foods. This is an excellent opportunity to teach them greater independence by allowing them to make simple recipes on their own. They can peel veggies, make sandwiches, do the dishes, put up groceries, and make cookies or brownies on their own. With supervision, they can really step up and do even more than this.
- Middle School Cooks: Browse a variety of ideas on how to engage middle school children in the kitchen.
- What to Cook with Middle Schoolers: This is a collection of simple recipes to make with the middle school crowd.
Ages 13 & Up: Young Chefs
Teens can learn to do pretty much anything they want in the kitchen, but is it essential to make sure they first know proper food handling and other safety techniques. They should know which pots and pans can go in the oven, how to handle raw meat, and how to use sharp knives safely. They can make recipes on the stovetop, bake cookies with friends, make waffles, press garlic, or learn to use various kitchen appliances like blenders and food processors. Teens should also be taught how to clean the kitchen, and they can even be put in charge of dinner one night a week.
- 25 Recipes for Teens: Let the teens choose from these 25 recipes they can cook with basic kitchen and safety knowledge.
- 13 Meals Teens Can Cook: Let the teens cook once a week and they can use this list of meal ideas to get them started.
Additional Cooking Resources for All Ages
- Cooking with Preschoolers: Find a list of kitchen tasks preschoolers can handle and descriptions of all the benefits to be reaped by helping in the kitsch at an early age.
- Montessori Kids in the Kitchen: Browse recipes with step-by-step guides on making them with children and where to buy kid-friendly kitchen supplies and tools.
- Food Safety for Kids and Teens: Read food safety articles applicable to all age groups, including how to teach these critical concepts to all children and teens.
- Kid-Friendly Recipes: Plan what to cook with the family by looking through a collection of recipes kids will love to make.
- 8 Fun Snacks to Make with Kids: Feed the kids while also teaching them how to do basic kitchen tasks, making snack time fun.
- Skills By Age Group: Learn which tasks appropriate to each age group.
- Recipes for Older Kids and Tweens: Plan meals and snacks that the junior high and high school crowds will enjoy helping with.
- Nutrition Activities for Early Childhood: Get kids involved in healthy eating early in life by taking part in these activities.
- Teaching Food Safety: Browse important food safety concepts and make sure children are learning them in the kitchen.
- Kids and Food Safety: Use these ideas to teach younger kids food safety principles.
Money-Saving Resources for Cooking and Food Buying
- Eating on a Dime
- Family of 5 Fed on a Budget
- Large Family Fed … on a Skinny Budget
- 15 Frugal Tips For Feeding a Large Family
- How to Save Money on Groceries at Costco
- Feed Seven People for $300 a Month
- How to Feed a Large Family on a Budget
- 11 Ways to Save Money on Groceries
- The Best Cheapest Food
- 37 Cheap Groceries to Buy When You are Broke