Start teaching your kids to cook early and slow with safe, confidence-boosting challenges before progressing to more complicated or hazardous undertakings. You know your child best; use your comfort level and their confidence and ability levels as guides.
Preschoolers are especially curious about food. Tap into their interest and developing motor skills by giving them jobs that promote both. Tiny fingers make little ones particularly adept at pulling leaves off herb stems. As they grow, they can move on to mixing, stirring and pouring pre-measured ingredients. Focus on short, simple tasks—nothing hot, heavy or sharp for these kiddos.
Grade schoolers are great culinary students because they can read! Have them practice reading recipes, ingredient lists and nutrition facts panels. As their math skills improve, teach them to use kitchen thermometers and dry and liquid measuring glasses, cups and spoons. Help them use small appliances, like toasters, and introduce them to small paring knives. Rolling and cutting cookies, scooping cupcakes and skewering kabobs are great techniques to learn at this age.
Preteens aren’t satisfied with simple tasks—they want real responsibility. Help them make pancakes, eggs and grilled cheese on the stovetop and bake cookies or brownies in the oven. With supervision, they can also begin to use bigger knives and other cutting tools, like pizza wheels, vegetable peelers, box graters and can openers.
Older teens and new drivers love grocery shopping or at least driving to the store, so introduce them to value concepts, food costs and budgeting. Have them help with meal planning and cooking full meals. When they leave the nest, they’ll be happy they know how fend for themselves.
Rachael Perron is the culinary & brand director for Kowalski’s Markets, where she specializes in product development and selection, culinary education and communications.