Cooking With Kids

Is it worth all the hassle?

There are many benefits of cooking with children. There is also a fair bit of mess and stress when you first start to do this. But believe me the end results in terms of your child's development will be worth it. So try it - you might find you have a lot of fun.

Cooking with my grandson can be filled with all kinds of unexpected happenings. Fine motor skills are not his strong point, so anything that involves pouring, mixing, spooning etc - always takes a lot of his concentration. And yes it can be messy, but we're getting so much better.

So let's have a look at the benefits and learning.

Children, with some encouragement, enjoying spending time in the kitchen making something that they can then share and eat. But they are not aware of cooking as a great learning experience. The best learning takes place when it is fun and you do not know your learning. It is also a great way of teaching your children how to make healthy choices with food so that they can grow eating a more healthy diet.

It's such a shame that nowadays many of us do not feel confident in the kitchen. I'ts something most of us would like to be better at. A lot of people say they just don't have the time to cook, or they don't know how. A lot of us feel this way because we never had the chance to learn from our parents. Our mothers started to go outside the home to work, more and more convenience foods appeared in the shops, the birth of the microwave made it easy for anyone just to put something pre-packaged into the machine and set the time. People seemed to have less and less time to prepare a home cooked meal. But this convenience had a price. The price was our lack of confidence and our health. But that's all changing. Now, everyone is concerned about how healthy the food is that we are feeding our children. We all want to learn and make more time to cook. Just look at the amount of cookery books and TV programmes there are. What a great time to get your child learning about food. Anyone, even if you think you're a 'great cook', 'not a bad cook', 'I can cook some meals' or a 'OMG I can't cook a thing' - really enjoys that feeling when somebody tells you that they loved what you have just made. If you get a great feeling when that happens, it will be exactly the same for your child when they produce their masterpiece. 

In a world where home cooked meals are now thought of as being healthier, teaching our kids to cook becomes a great parenting skill.

Cooking is fun and children enjoy it.

Children use all of their senses while cooking.

Communication and language

The kitchen is a great place to chat with your child. If your child is a reader, then get them to read out the recipe and help you get all the ingredients needed for the dish. Following the steps helps children learn about sequencing and what instruction text look like. Speak to them about how things smell, taste, feel, sound and look. Use some fantastic words like 'fizz' and 'crunch'. Talk about what it will look like when it's finished. Talk about the importance of washing hands and keeping things clean in the kitchen and so much more. You can help your child to learn lots of new words and concepts through discussion while you are cooking.   Children can learn the names of ingredients and words like sieve, whisk, stir, mix, roll and melt. They can look for words on packets like eggs and sugar and try to find these words in the recipe.  

Emotional and Social Development

You can show your child that cooking a meal for family and friends is a way of showing how much you care for them. Cooking a meal takes a lot of patience and care. Food is a really good vehicle for communication. Children can learn to share and how to take turns, particularly if they make something with a friend or sibling. Then when the cooking is over, you can sit down and enjoy eating together. 


So much maths to learn. Learning words like 'more than' or 'less than' than by weighing out ingredients. Counting and recognising numbers. Through the use of different cutters, children can learn the names of various 2D shapes. You can discuss how many corners or sides these shapes have so that children will learn the properties of many shapes. Timing - how long will it be in the oven etc. Fractions - the recipe might need 1/3 of a cup or 1/2 litre etc. How many pieces are you going to cut your pizza into.


Science plays a big part in cooking. The concept of changing materials: liquid cake mix becomes a solid through baking, juice can become ice lollies when frozen and chocolate melts when heated.  Cooking provides an excellent opportunity to discuss where foods come from such as eggs or milk and how and where various foods grow. Children can learn many things through questions raised in the kitchen including what they need to eat to keep healthy. Talk to them about which foods give them the energy to run and jump and which ones help them to grow strong. 


Your child's fine motor skills will be developed with tasks such as holding a spoon, mixing, beating, shaking, pouring, rolling or cutting  It is important to let your child to carry out as many of the cooking tasks as possible (excluding dangerous ones where sharp knives are involved). If there is a lot of mixing they could begin and you could finish it off as they may lack the physical ability.

  • Cooking encourages creativity. Try to get children to make their own decisions, add extra features, and do as much of the work as possible. You can praise your child when they do experiment and create something different like making a happy face on top of their pizza or shaping bread rolls into little animals etc. 

  • Cooking teaches how things change. Great science here. Talk about  – heating, freezing, grinding, and beating – while your making your masterpiece. In schools this would be called different states of matter.

  • Cooking builds self-confidence. Develops positive self-esteem and this is what we all need.

  • Cooking develops small motor control. Using cooking tools, such as shredders, graters, grinders, and melon ballers develops fine motor skills.

  • Cooking teaches about other cultures. Talk about food from around the world and where the recipes come from with older children.

It's never too late, or too early, to begin the learning curve in the kitchen. For instance, during infancy, babies watch and absorb the activities of their surroundings. Naming foods aloud and hearing the whir of the blender stimulates baby's learning. The toddler figures out how things work and learns from simple tasks such as pouring and mixing ingredients together. Not a tidy task to take on, but nevertheless, a fun and stimulating one for toddlers. Maybe you had better wait a while before you get them cracking eggs though.

For those children under 5 here are some of the EYFS targets.

There are a lot of developmental targets that cooking will help to meet from the EYFS guidelines for under 5's.

Here is a brief look at some of those guidelines from the EYFS.

8 months to 20 months ------ Pays attention to dominant stimulus.

                                            Understands single words in context.

                                            Uses single words.

                                            Picks up small objects between thumb and fingers.

16 months to 26 months -----  Understands simple sentences.

                                             Beginning to put 2 words together.

                                             Develops own likes and dislikes in food and drink.

                                             Willing to try new food and textures.

22 months to 36 months ----- Understands more complex sentences.

                                            Developing understanding of simple concepts (big - little)

                                            Shows control in holding and using jugs etc.

                                            Begins to make comparisons between quantities.

                                            Uses some language of quantities.

                                            Knows that a group of things changes in quantity when

something is added or taken away.

                                            Begin to use the language of size.

                                            Understands some talk about immediate past and future

(talking about how long it will take to cook etc)

30 months to 50 months ----  Listens to others in small groups or one to one

                                            Focusing attention. Is able to follow directions.

                                            Understands the use of objects (rolling pin, knife etc)

                                            Show understanding of prepositions such as under-on top

                                            Responds to simple instruction.

                                            Beginning to use more complex sentences to link thoughts.

                                            Builds up vocabulary that reflects their experiences.

                                            Can select resources with help.

                                            Welcomes and values praise for what they have done.

                                            Uses one handed tools (uses scissors to cut up veg etc.)

                                            Can usually manage washing and drying hands.

                                            Beginning to be interested in the texture of things.

                                            Use number names and number language.

                                            Know that numbers represent how many objects there are

                                            Comparing two groups of objects

40 months to 60 months ----  Maintains attention - Two channelled attention

(can listen and do for a short span)

                                            Responds to instructions involving a two-part sequence.

                                            Aware of boundaries set, and of behavioural expectations.

                                            Uses simple tools to effect changes to  materials.

                                            Handles tools and objects with increasing control.

                                            Eats a healthy range of foodstuffs and understands need for variety in food.

                                            Shows understanding of the need for safety and considers

and manages some risk.

(letting an adult put food in and out of the cooker etc)

                                            Begins to read words and simple sentences.

                                            In practical activities and discussion, beginning to use the

vocabulary involved in adding and subtracting.                        

                                            Orders two or three items by weight or capacity.

                                            Uses everyday language related to time.

                                            Measures short periods of time in simple ways.

                                            Enjoys joining in with family customs and routines.