Anne is the Coordinator of the MA Children at Play Program at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.
Last week we were happy to announce ChopChop, a new monthly newsletter featuring a free recipe that parents and children can make together. Having children help in the kitchen is a good way to get your child to try new foods, develop cooking skills and eating habits, and spend quality time together as a family.
As children grow, they will be able to help out with different kitchen tasks at different ages. While not every child develops at the same rate, there are certain tasks that children can typically do depending on their age.
At two years old, your child can help you do things like wipe tables, hand groceries to you to put away, place things in the trash, and rinse vegetables or fruits. They also may like getting their hands “busy” – let them tear lettuce, snap green beans, and make faces out of pieces of fruits or vegetables.
As a three year old, your child can help you add ingredients, squeeze citrus fruits (like oranges or lemons), stir batter or sauces, or knead dough (with clean hands, of course!). When they hit this age, they can do more than help with food – they can talk about it too. Play games like asking them to name different foods, or count how many pieces of green pepper you chopped.
Four year olds, in addition to the things two and three year olds can do, may be able to crack and peel eggs, peel fruits such as oranges and bananas. You can also ask them to help you measure dry ingredients (like flour, spices, black pepper, etc). Helping to make sandwiches and salads is a fun thing for kids to learn how to do.
Many five year olds can graduate to “utensils” and depending on the particular skills of your child, may be able to use a dull knife to cut soft fruits such as bananas or kiwis. They may also be able to measure liquids and use new utensils, like an egg beater.
While you’re working with your child in the kitchen, remember that this is a good time to teach them healthy and safe habits. Always remind them to:
- wash their hands with soap and water before working with food
- wash fruit and vegetables before eating, peeling or cooking
- sneeze into their upper arm when around food
For more fun, healthy tips for parents and kids visit www.mass.gov/massinmotion.
Tips adapted from Choosemyplate.gov