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Cooking with Kids and Teens

The cooking skills of children and teens have declined over time.1 Easy access to processed, pre-prepared meals means that Canadian families aren’t preparing meals from scratch as often.1 Children and teens also aren’t learning how to cook at home or at school.1

 

Learning how and helping to prepare meals from scratch teaches children and teens about healthy eating. It also encourages them to eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods.2 If children and teens learn how to cook at a young age, they will be able to nourish themselves and eat healthy throughout their entire lives.

Learning in the Kitchen

Most children and teens don’t learn how to cook at school. As a parent/caregiver, you can make your kitchen a classroom! Many of the skills children learn and use in the kitchen can be used to help them succeed in the classroom.

For example:3

  • Math skills: learn to measure, count and sort ingredients and practice working with fractions.
  • Language skills: learn to and practice reading recipes, learn to interpret the steps in a recipe, and expand their vocabulary when learning cooking terms.
 
  • Science skills: learn about effects of different cooking methods, (i.e. boiling, baking), ingredients (i.e. baking soda, yeast) and temperature.
  • Geography skills: learn about how foods are produced and where they come from. It is also an opportunity to learn about different cultural/ethnic foods.
  • Kitchen skills: learn about food safety and food preparation (i.e. kneading, chopping).
  • Social skills: learn to work together in the kitchen and share tools/equipment; also improve self-esteem and confidence as they learn a new skill.

 Tips for Success

  • Involve your child or teen as much as able. They can help with meal planning, grocery shopping and cleaning up, as well as cooking.
  • Be prepared that meals may take longer to cook and may be a little messier.
  • Involve them in cooking when you’re not rushing.
  • Make sure you have all the food and equipment you need.
  • Let your child or teen do as much as possible while you supervise and help only when needed. Children learn better when they do things instead of just watching.
  • Remember, it’s okay for your child to make mistakes, that’s how they learn!

What can my child or teen do?

Your child can help in any way that you feel they are ready. For example:4

  • 2- 3 year olds can wash vegetables and fruit or tear lettuce and salad greens.
  • 3-4 year olds can mash potatoes and bananas or mix together batters.
  • 4-6 year olds can measure dry and liquid ingredients or set the table.
  • 6-8 year olds can toss salad ingredients together or make a simple breakfast.
  • 8-12 year olds can make their own school lunch or help to plan meals.
  • 12 year olds and up can follow more complicated recipes or assemble and mix most ingredients.
  • Teens could be in charge of making one meal per week.

Remember, these are just ideas. Your child or teen may be able to do other things that aren’t listed here. Be sure to supervise at all times, especially when using knives or appliances or completing any other potentially dangerous task.4

 
Date of creation: January 21, 2013
Last modified on: June 5, 2018
 

References

1Health Canada. (2015). A Look at Food Skills in Canada. Retrieved from
http://www.dietitians.ca/Downloads/Public/FoodSkills_FactSheet_ENG-FINAL.aspx
2Chu et al. (2012). Involvement in home meal preparation is associated with food preference and self-efficacy among Canadian children. Public Health Nutrition. 16(1), 108-112
4UnlockFood.ca. (2018). Cooking with Kids of Different Ages. Retrieved from
http://www.unlockfood.ca/en/Articles/Child-Toddler-Nutrition/Cooking-with-Kids.aspx