Preparing holiday meals can feel stressful. There are times I’d rather my children play quietly somewhere so I can focus on the task at hand in the kitchen. While I love my little helpers, it often feels easier to do it all without the help of little hands. And though that may be true, I look back on those moments in the kitchen from my childhood with fond memories. I can see that the kitchen was a place where our family congregated, especially during the holidays. We formed close bonds while working alongside one another, together. And more than just good memories, those small lessons over time helped me become the cook I am today for my family.
By the time I was away from home in college I was already able to prepare several meals from scratch. I knew about ingredients and measurements necessary to prepare those meals and truly enjoyed the process. I hope to be able to assist my children with that same readiness over the years, and with the help of the Together CountsTM program, I believe I’ll be able to do just that.
(see also Teaching by Example)
With my own kids I have found that what works best is to allow them to help when they’re interested. I never force them (with exception of clean up, because it is a rule that we all participate and contribute to tidying up), but rather guide their interests.
Tips for Teaching Kids Kitchen Skills
- I first show them how to do the task, such as how to use a vegetable peeler or cut an onion. A few times may be necessary depending on what the task is.
- After that I help them, hand over hand, in doing the task. An example of this would be placing their hands on the rolling pin, then placing my hands on top of theirs and demonstrating the task again with both of us doing it together.
- Then, I allow them to test their skills alone.
(see also Including Kids in Cooking)
Appropriate Tasks for Kids in the Kitchen
Here are a few tasks to involve kids in kitchen preparations this the holiday season. Older kids can participate in any of the tasks listed for the ages younger than they are. And of course, everything should be done with adult supervision and according to your assessment of your child’s readiness.
Ages 5-6: Helping to knead bread, helping to roll out pie crust, cutting out cookies, tearing lettuce for salad, snapping the ends off of green beans, rinsing vegetables in a colander. Pressing the button on food processors or blenders, pouring pre-measured ingredients or observing you prepare a recipe.
Ages 7-8: Measuring ingredients, such as flour, spices, or sugar. Stirring batters. Reading recipes and setting out the appropriate ingredients for the recipe. Greasing pans with butter.
Ages 9-10: Peeling vegetables, such as potatoes or carrots. Reading recipe instructions and explaining what steps come next. Assisting in shaping rolls.
Ages 10+: Sautéing onion and celery for a stuffing recipe. Chopping vegetables for soup. Rolling a pie crust on their own. Preparing simple recipes with supervision rather than assistance.
(see also How Nutrition Changes as Kids Age)
With these simple tasks, you’re teaching your kids important life skills that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. It’s also another great opportunity to spend time together and connecting over a fun activity.
Recipes to Make with Your Kids this Holiday Season:
- Spiced Pomegranate Apple Cider
- Sweet Potato Dinner Rolls
- Chocolate Gingerbread Cut Out Cookies
- Homemade Chocolate Dipped Marshmallows
How do you involve your kids in the kitchen during the holiday season?
Katie’s lifelong interest in food has shown her that part of the goodness in life is enjoying delicious food with friends and family. Katie Goodman is the cook, recipe developer, and photographer behind GoodLife Eats where she dishes on food, books, travel and style. You can also find Katie on Twitter and Facebook.