Kids eat right.

Toddler and Preschooler Tasks in the Kitchen

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN
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Helping with cooking can make your child more curious about different kinds of foods and help them become a better eater. Plus, it can pique kids’ enthusiasm for eating new foods. The key to success is picking simple chores that your child can do. Here are a few ways to get your toddler or preschooler excited about food through cooking:

  • Washing foods. Place a small, sturdy stool or chair in front of the sink, fill a large bowl or salad spinner with water, and show your child how to swish the lettuce leaves. Remember to dress your child in clothing and shoes that can get wet. Also, keep a towel and mop handy!
  • Cutting soft foods. Seat children at the table with a cutting board and a plastic picnic knife. Give them a soft fruit or vegetable to cut. For example, a banana, peeled melon wedge, peach half, pear half, mango wedge or mushrooms. Sit with them and show how to cut the food. Or, ask an older child to help their sibling.
  • Making funny faces. Ask your preschooler to help make "funny face" desserts for the family. Give them an assortment of fruits such as peach, pear, mandarin orange or apple slices, along with raisins. Show them ways to arrange the fruits on a plate to make a face. Ask them to make their own funny faces for the rest of the plates.
  • Layering parfaits. Give your child cut fruit, yogurt and granola or breakfast cereal. Show them how to layer these foods into parfaits in clear plastic cups. It's OK if the layers turn out a bit uneven.
  • Dumping and stirring. Children love dumping flour and other ingredients into bowls. Have them stir together dry ingredients in large bowls. It's great fun for young kids to help create delicious muffins, pancakes or cupcakes.

Always follow food safety basics. Wash your child's hands before touching food and whenever they get messy. Keep breakables and sharp knives out of reach. Avoid working with foods that can be a choking hazard for little ones.