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The Joy of Cooking with Kids During the Holidays

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN

Reviewers: Academy Nutrition Information Services Team

Published: December 17, 2021

Reviewed: September 13, 2023

The Joy of Cooking with Kids During the Holidays
Wavebreakmedia/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

With special treats and family gatherings, the perfect time to teach your child about cooking and nutrition is during the holidays! Kids will not only get to try the new foods they prepare, but also get a big boost to their confidence when they see family and friends enjoying their creations. Most importantly, cooking with your children will promote future health by teaching them about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals.

Safety Precautions

To be safe, cover a few ground rules before getting started in the kitchen. Teach kids to wash their hands with clean, running water while soaping up and singing two choruses of "Happy Birthday" to wash away germs.

Teaching Basics

To begin cooking, teach your child the basics, such as cracking an egg or gathering the ingredients for a favorite holiday recipe. Explain to your child the importance of measuring the correct amount of each ingredient and the different types of utensils you need to use.

Look Who's Cooking!

To keep your children enthusiastic about cooking, assign steps of a holiday recipe that they are able to do based on their abilities. Here are some ideas depending on your child's age (however, each child’s ability to learn a new task may vary):

  • 2- to 3-year-olds: wash fresh produce, snap green beans, tear lettuce for a salad, press cookie cutters
  • 3- to 5-year-olds: mix together simple ingredients, spread ingredients such as frosting or butter
  • 5- to 7-year-olds: shuck corn, crack eggs, dip items
  • 7- to 9-year-olds: measure ingredients, use a can opener, check the temperature of foods with a thermometer, pound chicken on a cutting board
  • 10-year-olds or older: slice or chop vegetables, microwave foods, bake foods in the oven, simmer ingredients on the stove

Remember to allow your child to gradually master cooking methods. Start with simple techniques such as rolling dough, using a cookie cutter or spreading frosting. Give your child time to work their way up to completing the entire cookie making process, from pouring liquids into batter to baking foods in the oven. Explain different methods for cooking and their purpose, such as baking versus broiling and how you would cook different dishes.

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