Cooking With Preschoolers: Your Toddler Chef

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When my son was two, we started cooking together. He was very interested and wanted to partake. We started with something simple that did not require heat or cutting – just mixing. It was messy, so messy! It was also fun.

We have continued to cook together. I never thought I would enjoy cooking with a preschooler so much. He can now cut with a butter knife, measure out quantities, and use a hand mixer with my supervision. Here are some tips to get your little chef started:

Tips for Cooking with a Preschooler

Start simple.

Pick recipes that allow kids to mix and mush and eat without the use of heat. Guacamole or heatless pudding recipes can be a good place to start.

Don’t be afraid of knives and other utensils but use safe options.

For example, start with a plastic kids knife and move onto a butter knife once your child has more fine motor control. Most importantly, before each time your child uses a knife, remind them of how to use one safely (even though they are using a blunt plastic children’s knife, they should learn). Let them cut soft things like strawberries or avocados. They will love it.

Use ingredients you want them to try.

Cooking with a preschooler can also be a great way to help a picky eater be less picky. My son became interested in avocados after making guacamole. Similarly, he was willing to try mashed potatoes after helping mash them. He even tried sprouts…once.

Make clean up part of the cooking experience.

Make sure your child helps you put things away as you cook. My son loves rinsing the mixing bowls and spoons after cooking.

Eat the final concoction together.

Your child will be more excited about cooking and about eating if he sees other family members enjoying what he made.

Why cook with your child?

You are teaching them a life skill and showing them how to follow instructions. You are spending quality time with them. Cooking together allows them to experiment, learn, and make mistakes in a safe setting. Enjoy and have fun!


Karolina Belwal is the founder of AfterThird, a community of support for new and expecting parents.  Karolina has an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan. She has spent the majority of her career working in Business Strategy.  Karolina is also a working mom of two.

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