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The Knee-High Chef: Kitchen Tasks for Every Age

Photo by RyanJLane / iStock
Photo by RyanJLane / iStock

Love the idea of bonding with your child while promoting healthy eating, confidence, language skills, cognitive development, and physical development? Get your budding sous chef into the kitchen! Sure, it may take a little more time to make a meal and a pinch of patience (plus some extra cleanup), but the benefits are many—and nothing tastes as good as a meal made with love.

Curious what he might be capable of? Check out these age-appropriate activities from Growing-Minds.org, part of the National Farm to School Network:

Great Kitchen Tasks for 2-Year-Olds

  • scrubbing vegetables and fruits
  • carrying unbreakable items to the table
  • dipping foods
  • washing and tearing lettuce and salad greens
  • breaking bread into pieces (stuffing anyone?)

Put It All Together: Super Salad Dinner

She can tear, rinse, and dry the greens and toss them in a bowl. (What kid doesn’t love a salad spinner?!) Have her top it with favorite fruits and veggies (carrots, radishes, red peppers, apples, pears, strawberries, blueberries, etc.) that you slice after she rinses or scrubs them in the sink. Whip up a kid-friendly dip or hummus recipe, like this one from Cooking Lite: She can pour ingredients in the food processor or blender, press buttons if able, and tear up the whole wheat bread or pita to go with it.

Great Kitchen Tasks for 3-Year-Olds

  • pouring liquids into batter (you measure first)
  • mixing batter or other dry and wet ingredients together
  • spreading butters or spreads
  • kneading dough
  • washing vegetables and fruit
  • serving foods
  • putting things in the trash after cooking or after a meal

Put It All Together: Pancake Dinner

Blow his mind with breakfast for dinner! Homemade pancakes are a great way to practice pouring and mixing. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try your collective hands at The Kitchn’s homemade bread instead, and then have him spread nut butter and jam on the warm slices. Serve your sandwiches with a salad—make the dressing in a lidded jar and have him give it a good shake!

Great Kitchen Tasks for 4- and 5-Year-Olds

  • juicing oranges, lemons, and limes
  • peeling some fruits and vegetables (bananas and even onions)
  • mashing soft fruits and vegetables
  • scrubbing vegetables (potatoes, mushrooms)
  • cutting soft foods with a plastic knife (mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs)
  • pressing cookie cutters
  • measuring dry ingredients
  • cracking open/breaking eggs
  • beating eggs with an egg beater
  • setting the table
  • wiping up after cooking
  • clearing the table after a meal

Put it All Together: Thanksgiving Dinner

What better moment to encourage multiple kitchen activities and celebrate family than having her help out with this year’s Thanksgiving feast? She can juice the oranges for the turkey glaze; wash and mash the potatoes; peel and slice soft fruits or hard-boiled eggs with a plastic knife for a healthy salad; help measure and mix the ingredients for the pumpkin pie; and man the cutters for the Food Network’s spiced sugar cookies. (And you can go ahead and indulge in another iced pilgrim hat while she happily does the cleaning up … it’s all for her education, right?)

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