This article was originally published in May 2020 and updated in December 2023 for relevance.

Cooking together is a great way to get your child interested in healthy eating, and teach them important skills.  

Where to start? Haley Duscha, a pediatric dietitian in the Division of Obesity & Weight Management, shares advice.

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Here’s how to get your child started with cooking.

  1. Invite your child into the kitchen while you cook, so that they become familiar with the kitchen environment. Just move any hazards out of reach first – sharp or heavy utensils, pot handles, hot food, cleaning products – and make sure there will be a clear path if you’re carrying anything hot. Give young kids a wooden spoon or measuring cups to entertain themselves.
  2. If your child is old enough to help, prepare your ingredients on a low table that they can reach, or get them a stepstool so they can stand beside you at the counter.
  3. Designate special tools for your child, like a kid-sized oven mitt, colorful set of mixing bowls, and their own mixing spoon. You can even decorate aprons together.
  4. Give your child a taste as you pull out the ingredients you’ll need for your recipe. Talk about the flavors, colors and textures, both before and after cooking.
  5. Give your child a helping role. See below for age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen, like tearing lettuce, measuring ingredients or being in charge of the kitchen timer.
  6. Try growing your own food – even if it’s just a basil plant on the windowsill – and get your child involved in caring for it.
  7. Bring your child to the farmers' market or grocery store, so they can be part of selecting fresh produce and other ingredients that you’ll cook together into healthy meals.
  8. Enlist your child’s help picking out healthy recipes to try as a family. Sometimes having your child pick the recipe can even make them more willing to try new things!

Here are specific cooking tips, by child's age.

Keep in mind: When your child is first learning these skills, they’ll need a couple things from you – including your willingness to step back and let them struggle a bit. Here, our pediatric expert breaks down how to teach your child new skills.

  • 3- to 5-year-olds: Mix together simple ingredients, wash fruits and vegetables, stir (room temperature) ingredients, snap green beans, tear apart lettuce for salad, squash fruit, press cookie cutters 
  • 6- to 7-year-olds: Measure ingredients, shuck corn, beat eggs, grease and line a cake tin, peel oranges or hard-boiled eggs, set the table 
  • 8- to 9-year-olds: Use a can opener, peel raw fruits and vegetables, juice citrus fruit, check food temperatures with a thermometer, crack eggs, pound chicken or meat on a cutting board 
  • 10 years and older: Slice or chop vegetables, boil potatoes, microwave food, bake foods in the oven, simmer foods on the stove