Photo: Christopher Testani

Let children assist with cooking (without losing your sanity).

Hayley Sugg
November 15, 2017

Most children want to be involved with everything their parents do. Whether it's visiting the grocery store, taking a bathroom break, or cooking a recipe, they're there to 'help' at all times (which is adorable, but can also be a little frustrating).

When your child wants to assist in the kitchen, but you don't want dinner to take twice as long to cook, we have six easy tasks for little hands to tackle. Although any time a kid gets in the kitchen you can expect things to move a little slower, handing out these simple 'jobs' shouldn't entirely derail your cooking time or make a giant mess. 

Squeezing Citrus

A little squeeze of lemon or lime juice can brighten up any dish, and it also happens to be a fairly easy kitchen task. Just halve your lemon or lime ahead of time, then assist your child as they put it in a citrus squeezer and extract the juices. To make things even simpler, you can heat your citrus fruit for 15-20 seconds in the microwave to make it extra easy to juice.

Taste Testing

Definitely the easiest task on this list, giving your kids a little taste of dishes before serving can help them feel more involved in the cooking process. This job is especially helpful when making a recipe that might end up too spicy or sour for a child's palate, letting you gauge how much of these ingredients to stir in just before serving.

Cutting (with Caution) 

While there may be nothing scarier than handing your kid a knife to prep food, there is a (relatively) safe way to do it. First off, make sure the child is mature enough to take the task seriously. Then demonstrate how to properly cut fruits or vegetables, with your fingers curled in or protected by a finger guard. And lastly, before setting them loose with a giant knife, we'd suggest investing in a child-specific knife set, like this Opinel Le Petite 3-Piece Chef's Knife Set, which our own editor uses with his daughter. 

Stir Up Some Fun

Stirring is one of the simplest task when it comes to cooking. Whether it's mixing up a batch of brownies, whisking a few eggs, or stirring chocolate chips into cookie dough, kids will love to be hands-on with a whisk or spatula. If you're worried about your little one becoming extra vigorous with their task (read: half the batter ending up on the floor), make sure to get an extra large mixing bowl with tall sides to avoid messes.

Prep Produce

Even if you don't trust your child to wield a knife yet, you can still assign them the job of preparing some produce. Snapping the woody ends off of asparagus, hulling strawberries, snapping the tips off green beans, or de-stemming herbs can all easily be done by hand. 

Master Measuring

Since measuring is a key process of cooking, teaching kids this basic step can improve their ability to follow written recipes. For liquids, you can place your measuring cup at eye-level of your child, then tell them to say 'when' once the liquid you pour reaches the needed measurement (1 cup, 1/2 cup, etc.). For dry measurements, scoop the ingredient into the measuring cup yourself, but let your kid assist by using a butter knife to scrape off the uneven top layer.