Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

Cooking With Preschoolers

Cooking can help young kids learn and practice some basic math concepts and build language skills. And reating meals with you can help build their self-confidence and lay the foundation for healthy eating habits.

It may take a little flexibility and some simple prep work. But with the right expectations, your time in the kitchen with your preschooler can be an adventure you'll both enjoy.

How Cooking Can Help Preschoolers

Bringing kids into the kitchen can be good for them in a number of ways. Cooking can help:

  • Build basic skills. Help build basic math skills by doing something as simple as counting eggs or pouring water into a measuring cup. You can ask what comes first, second, and third or count together as you spoon dough onto a cookie sheet. When you read a recipe together, you introduce new words to your child's vocabulary and promote literacy. Following steps in the recipe can work on listening skills.
  • Encourage an adventurous palate. Preschoolers are picky eaters, and bringing them into the kitchen to cook can help get them to open up to new tastes. When your 3-year-old plays chef, she might sample dishes she wouldn't try if you just served them to her. So encourage kids to taste new ingredients you're working with and talk about what they like and how healthy foods make a body grow.
  • Help young kids explore with their senses. Kids learn by exploring with their senses and the kitchen is an ideal place to do that. Invite them to listen to the whir of the mixer, pound dough and watch it rise, smell it baking in the oven, and finally taste the warm bread fresh from the oven. If it smells good, looks appealing, and is easy to eat they may just be willing to try it!
  • Boost confidence. Preschoolers love to show what they can do and working in the kitchen provides opportunities to gain a sense of accomplishment. If they helped assemble the pizza, let them know that their help was important. You could name the pizza or another dish after your child. Serve "Jalen's Pizza" or "Ella's Salad" for dinner tonight. Even if the results are not exactly what you expected, praise their efforts.

Ideal Jobs for Preschoolers in the Kitchen

A few tasks in the kitchen are particularly well-suited to kids ages 3 to 5. The key is to give them "jobs" that meet their skill level and are something they enjoy. So if your child loves to pound, bring out the bread dough and let your preschooler pound away.

Here are some other ways kids can help:

  • stirring pancake batter
  • tearing lettuce for salad
  • adding ingredients
  • assembling a pizza
  • helping you "read" a cookbook by turning the pages

Getting Started

From riding a tricycle to getting dressed, preschoolers are learning how much they can do all by themselves.

So look for a few cooking-related activities that your child can do independently or with just a little help from you. Simple tasks like pouring liquid into the bowl, sprinkling cheese on top of the casserole, or using cookie cutters are a good fit for most preschoolers.

Don't plan an elaborate project — 5 to 10 minutes might be all your child wants to spend on an activity. Start small and keep it fun.

As kids grow, they will develop the skills, attention span, and interest to do bigger cooking jobs, like squeezing the juice out of a lemon, measuring ingredients into cups and spoons, and beating eggs or mashing potatoes.

Preschoolers will also enjoy learning with you. For safety reasons, you should be in the kitchen with them at all times, supervising and monitoring progress.

Spending time in the kitchen with your kids can foster an interest in food and cooking that will last for life!

Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date Reviewed: 14-11-2021

What next?

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.