100 ways to get kids involved in the kitchen

Organized by skills required

No reading, coordination, sharp safety or heat safety skills required

(reasonable adult supervision still required)

  1. Wash hands before cooking
  2. Count out produce into a bag at the store
  3. Help find items at the grocery store
  4. Pick out a vegetable or fruit to buy and try
  5. Name different foods/ingredients as you cook
  6. Taste, smell, or touch ingredients (safely of course; avoid handling raw meat, poultry, fish, eggs, or foods with these as ingredients)
  7. Taste a dressing/sauce to see if it needs more salt/sugar/pepper/garlic/etc.
  8. Describe different ingredients: appearance, texture, smell, taste, category (vegetable, fruit, meat, grain, protein, canned, frozen, etc.)
  9. Choose dressing or toppings for a salad
  10. Find an appropriately sized container for leftovers
  11. Count out ingredients
  12. Play with non-breakable bowls and spoons

When I was a toddler, my mom had one low cabinet that had the metal mixing bowls and pots that I was allowed to play with and I totally thought a two piece bundt/angel food cake pan (like this one) would make a great snowman costume if I put the pointy part on my head like a top hat and wore the round part around my neck as a…scarf? I’m not sure what I was thinking. But I definitely got stuck in the round part and panicked and my mom had to help me get out and it’s one of my earliest memories

  1. Suggest a meal or side dish
  2. Choose a meal or side dish
  3. Look through a cookbook or cooking magazine together and choose some recipes to try
  4. Choose a recipe from a cooking show to try (even if it is just used as an inspiration)
  5. Follow a video tutorial together

Some limited physical coordination required

Many of these tasks can be done by very small toddlers who have an adult helper. Very small kids probably won’t be able to complete the task by themselves, but they will be able to participate, which is the important part. Check out the ADORABLE Chef Kobe here for some visual proof that toddlers can do these types of tasks

many many more cooking videos on their instagram @kobe_yn
  1. Sprinkle toppings on a salad
  2. Sprinkle cheese or breadcrumb topping
  3. Rinse lettuce leaves
  4. Add pre-measured ingredients to a mixture
  5. Mix spice mixtures/sauces/batters
  6. Mix meatballs
  7. Put ingredients in a pot to cook
  8. Collect bowls/measuring cups/measuring spoons
  9. Move dirty dishes from the table to the counter or dishwasher
  10. Get out toppings/condiments and put them on the table
  11. Scramble eggs
  12. Mash potatoes, bananas, or squash
  13. Scrub potatoes
  14. Shake a jar or container of dressing or seasonings to mix it (just make sure it is fully closed!)
  15. Shake a jar of overnight oats or chia seed pudding to combine (Add recipes here)
  16. Rinse or scrub veggies, fruits, or herbs
  17. Put ingredients into a slow cooker
  18. Throw skins/peels/package wrappers in a garbage bowl, trash, or compost bin
  19. Carry dirty dishes to the counter/sink/dishwasher
  20. Wipe off a table or a counter
  21. Toss veggies in oil and seasonings by shaking them in a closed container
  22. Cut out dough with cookie cutters
  23. Decorate cookies with sprinkles/frosting
  24. Top pizzas with cheese and toppings

Somewhat higher coordination or level of strength required

Will still require an adult supervisor and possibly an adult helper

  1. Help put away groceries
  2. Find and collect ingredients as you read them from the recipe
  3. Measure ingredients
  4. Put away ingredients as they are used
  5. Remove husk and silk from corn on the cob
  6. Pull garlic cloves from a head of garlic
  7. Peel garlic cloves that have been smashed
  8. Use a garlic press to press garlic
  9. Use a measuring cup or pitcher to add water to a pot
  10. Press buttons on a mixer, blender, or food processor
  11. Knead dough
  12. Crush nuts or bread crumbs in a plastic bag with a rolling pin, pot, fists, or Hulk hands if you want to make it extra fun
  13. Put plates, cups, silverware, and/or napkins on the table
  14. Peel an orange or banana
  15. Section oranges
  16. Snap asparagus
  17. Use a lettuce spinner to dry lettuce
  18. Dry lettuce by spinning it in a towel or mesh bag
  19. Tear up lettuce leaves
  20. Toss a salad
  21. Toss veggies in oil and seasonings for roasting using a bowl and spoon/fork
  22. Use a cookie scoop to portion out cookies/biscuits/meatballs
  23. Shape meatballs, rolls or other doughs
  24. Turn on slow cooker
  25. Peel an onion that has been cut in halves or quarters
  26. Put spreads on bread or toast
  27. Put dirty dishes in the dishwasher or sink or on the counter

Reading skills required

  1. Preheat the oven
  2. Read recipe out loud
  3. Read the ingredients list out loud
  4. Find a recipe
  5. Write ingredients on a grocery list
  6. Search for and add foods to an online grocery order
  7. Read the grocery list and cross items off the list as they are bought
  8. Follow directions to prepare microwave food
  9. Write and decorate a menu (although, they can just decorate a menu and “write” if they don’t actually know how to write. No one actually needs to read it 😊)
  10. Find a recipe that they want to try in a cookbook
  11. Search for and find a recipe to make online
  12. Follow a simple recipe

Sharp safety skills required

Use your best judgment as a parent

  1. Grate garlic
  2. Use scissors to cut fresh herbs
  3. Use scissors to cut pizza or quesadilla that has cooled
  4. Use an egg slicer
  5. Use a cheese slicer
  6. Use an egg slicer to cut strawberries
  7. Wash and cut grape bunches with scissors
  8. Put vegetables/meat on skewers
  9. Add ingredients to a food processor or blender
  10. Press the buttons on a food processor or blender

Kids can start to learn knife skills earlier than you might think! Here are two really great resources on how to start helping kids use knives safely and in an age-appropriate way (superhealthykids.com and happykidskitchen.com/) Might as well start teaching them safe skills early! (Besides, the earlier they learn, the earlier they can help!)

  1. Chop lettuce with a lettuce knife
  2. Chop soft vegetables or fruits (banana, cucumber, zucchini)
  3. Chop dough (to section for rolls)
  4. Chop or slice vegetables

Heat safety required

  1. Steam frozen veggies in the microwave and then season
  2. Make toast
  3. Make a microwaveable food
  4. Stir a pot or pan
  5. Add ingredients to a pot or pan on the stove
  6. Follow a simple recipe that involves using the oven or stove

Please note that these are ideas meant to empower you to involve your kids in the cooking process. You are the one who best knows your child’s abilities. Use your best judgement to choose activities that will be appropriate for your child. Please make sure you supervise your children during these activities, especially those that involve heat or sharp blades!

Would you like a neat downloadable and printable PDF of this list? Here you go!

Interested in a meal plan just for your family that includes built-in instructions for involving your kids? Learn more at www.nutritionforrealhumans.com/learning/

Let’s talk about food we hate

Let’s talk about food we hate. Or even foods we just don’t really like.

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How I feel about olives

It’s fine and normal to have foods you don’t like and choose not to eat!

Everyone has their own personal preferences. It’s cool if you never want to try those foods or learn to like them. It’s your choice!

From a nutrition perspective, there is such a variety of food on this earth that most people can have a balanced diet that fits within their food preferences. There might be a few changes and stretches to make, but it’s rare that you will need to eat only foods you hate to be healthy.

If you are concerned that food preferences are so restrictive that they prevent you from getting adequate nutrition, please speak to a registered dietitian or primary care provider.

Here are some foods I don’t like:

  • Beets
  • Bacon
  • Papaya
  • Fresh mango
  • Mayonnaise
  • Ranch dressing
  • Thousand Island Dressing
  • Ham
  • Pork chops
  • over-dressed salad (soggy lettuce 🙁 )
  • Pineapple candy
  • Cooked or canned pineapple
  • Pickled mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Chicken skin
  • Gristle
  • American cheese
  • Eggplant
  • Licorice
  • Redvines
  • Coconut
  • Root Beer

That being said, some of these I keep trying because I want to maybe someday like them.

Sometimes it’s worth giving foods a few chances before you rule them out forever.

(This doesn’t even take into account not eating certain foods because of religious or ethical beliefs. This is also totally up to each individual and should not be considered just a preference. )

You might discover you don’t like a food prepared one way, but eating it another way, or in another context is delicious. For example, I grew up not liking tuna. But it turns out I just don’t like the mayonnaise that was always in tuna salad. Tuna by itself, or mixed with avocado – I like just fine.

This beet pasta recipe from Nadiya Hussain is another good example. I am not really a fan of beets, but this pasta has so much garlic, lemon, and cheese that it’s all I can taste, but I still get the nutrients and beautiful pink color from beets.

Eating foods prepared differently may be especially helpful if you are sensitive to textures.

Some foods are an acquired taste and it takes a few times (or several times) of eating them before it starts to taste good. So, if you really want to like a food, it’s ok if it takes you a few times.

And tastes change. As kids, our palates are really sensitive, especially to bitter and sour tastes, but we lose some of that sensitivity as we’re older so we’re more likely to enjoy foods like coffee, broccoli, beer, vinaigrette. I used to hate pineapple in all forms and just automatically avoided it until I ate it at someone’s house to be polite and discovered that it was pretty good fresh. Still can’t stand it cooked or canned though.

Read about encouraging kids to try new foods and see more resources here

Here are some foods I use to not like but I do now:

  • Tuna (turns out I just don’t like mayonnaise)
  • Ketchup
  • Hamburgers
  • Mushrooms
  • Tomatoes
  • Mustard (still not a fan of straight yellow mustard, but some whole grain or Dijon…alright)
  • Grilled onions
  • Fresh pineapple
  • Asparagus
  • Roast beef
  • Coca Cola, Dr. Pepper
  • Coffee
  • Yogurt
  • Goat cheese
  • Salsa
  • Dark chocolate
  • Sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Potato chips
  • Pepperoni
  • Dill

Now, why would you want to eat foods you don’t like on the off-chance that you might start liking them?

Health: Wanting to get the health benefits of a certain food or food group that is not your favorite (salmon for omega-3s, spinach for the iron, chicken breasts for the lean protein, or just generally more veggies for example). It’s why I keep trying beets and eggplant.

Social: This is another big reason and actually a really important one. Sometimes being able to eat a greater variety of foods gives you more freedom in your social life. You don’t have to worry about what’s going to be served at dinner a dinner party, or might be more likely to join a group that’s going out to a new restaurant.

Variety: You’re bored of the foods you are currently eating and want to try something new

Legacy: You want your kids to try new foods and you need to set a good example.

You just want to because it seems cool: I’ll be honest here. While beets are really healthy, the main reason that I really want to like them is that they are sooo pretty! Did you see that pasta? It’s an unreal magenta color! Or olives. It was a great disappointment to my child self that I didn’t like olives because I wanted to be like all the cool kids and stick them on my fingers, but I still don’t like them despite continuing to try them :/

Your takeaway for today: it’s ok to not like all foods, but sometimes it’s worth giving a food a few chances before swearing it off forever because you may someday be able to wear olives on your fingers like the cool kids.

What foods do you dislike? Or what foods are you learning to like?

This post is intended to be informational only and is not medical or nutritional advice. If you have questions about your unique needs, ask about a custom meal plan or speak with a registered dietitian-nutritionist near you.

How To Dad has got it right

Listen, if you haven’t yet watched How to Dad‘s YouTube Channel, you are missing deadpan humor, adorable kids, and surprisingly helpful parenting tips. Checking it out is worth a few minutes of your time – most of his videos are less than 5 minutes long and they always make my day. But today, I’m going to talk as a dietitian about what I like in this video. ↓

Watch this first 🙂

This video illustrates so many true things about teaching kids to eat vegetables – intentionally or unintentionally I’m not sure – but let’s break it down. How to Dad is trying to convince his toddler to eat a plate of broccoli and carrots with varying amounts of success.

She starts out by biting a carrot, and then putting it back on the plate without eating any

This is normal and good and it is how kids explore new foods. Any exposure to new foods is a step in the right direction. Licking, biting, touching, or even just smelling a new (or less liked) food gives a child more experience with a food and means they are becoming more interested or less scared of it. Even if they spit it out, it’s still progress. (And teaching them to politely spit out food can take some of the pressure out of trying new foods)

When the vegetables are covered with cheese or ketchup, she just eats the cheese and ketchup

There’s nothing wrong with using other preferred foods to make vegetables more palatable, but know it won’t always work. Kids will eat what they want. Same goes for hiding veggies – it might work, but kids are also pretty smart and might just see right through it.

“Pounding the table” doesn’t work

In this video it results in oh my goodness tiny adorable table pounding! But in real life, ordering or forcing kids to eat vegetables is more likely to result in a power struggle than learning to eat vegetables. They might eat them, but they’re more likely to view it as a chore than to learn to enjoy eating them, and who likes chores?

They play with their food

This has varying degrees of success – in fact most of the play doesn’t result in eating any vegetables, not until the end of the video. However, it does have the advantage of increasing exposure to and familiarity with the food (see point 1)

She eats the broccoli after watching her dad eat it

This is HUGE. Kids learn by watching and imitating you. If they never see you eating vegetables, they’re much less likely to want to eat them. On the other hand, if they see you regularly eating vegetables along with all other foods like it’s no big deal, they’re likely to grow up learning that vegetables are just something you eat, like hamburgers or toast.

She is having fun

Obviously these two have a positive relationship. Even when the dad is “pounding the table” she thinks its a fun game. And every interaction, even the ones that don’t result in eating vegetables, is happy. Obviously it’s unrealistic to expect you to have 100% happy moments with your kids (especially with a toddler), but making mealtimes an overall positive environment by having positive conversations, promoting good table etiquette, not creating power struggles, etc. can make a big difference in promoting an overall healthy relationship with food, not to mention trying new foods.

She eats the most vegetables when How to Dad isn’t even paying attention to her

The food is there in front of her, but there’s no pressure on her, and no one’s trying to get her to do anything.

There are a lot of attempts and not a lot of actually eating vegetables

Studies show kids may need to be exposed to a food up to 20 times before they even try it, not to mention liking it or eating it regularly. Being exposed to a food can eating it, but it can also include playing with the food, helping prepare the food, and smelling it, touching it or licking it (see the first point). It may seem like kids will never eat new foods, but don’t give up! If they never see it or interact with it, they will surely never learn to eat it!

I know it can be hard and frustrating, but you can do it! They can do it! You’re just helping them practice the skill of eating new foods, which like any skill, takes practice!

In summary, what should you learn from this?

Keep serving the vegetables, keep eating the vegetables (and let your kids see you doing it), don’t make it a big deal, be prepared that it might take a long time, and know that that’s ok.

Note this also applies to any other food that you want your kids to learn to eat, just substitute “fish”, “beans” or “croissants” for vegetables in the article above 🙂

If you’re looking for more information and encouragement on this topic, I also recommend checking out feedinglittles.com or following @feedinglittles . Great accurate information (they are a dietitian and occupational feeding therapist team), practical tips, and overall great positive attitude!

Want to read even more? Here are more resources:

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/end-mealtime-battles

https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/eating-as-a-family/keep-kids-out-of-the-clean-plate-club

https://www.eatright.org/health/pregnancy/breast-feeding/introducing-new-flavors-to-babies

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0195666317308784

https://www.romper.com/p/how-many-times-does-a-child-have-to-try-a-food-before-they-like-it-more-than-you-think-17999317

https://www.healthyfamiliesbc.ca/home/articles/preventing-picky-eating-toddlers

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17635306

https://www.ellynsatterinstitute.org/how-to-feed/childhood-feeding-problems/