Kids Belong in the Kitchen

image credit: LilyWhitesParty

As a Dietitian, I am often asked by parents and caregivers what to do about “picky eaters.” One solution is to get your kids in the kitchen! A child is more likely to try new foods if she/he helps prepare them. Getting kids interested in cooking now can also help improve foods they eat in the future. They gain a sense of independence and an appreciation for meal and snack preparation.

Here is a range of tasks a child can do to help in the kitchen. (Remember to keep tasks age appropriate and at your child’s pace.) Always remind your child that hand washing is the first thing she/he should do before preparing food.

  • Set the table, include napkin folding, pouring water and creating and placing name cards
  • Get items from refrigerator (salad dressing, condiments, etc…) and place on table
  • Wash, peel and slice fruits and vegetables
  • Snap asparagus or beans
  • Shuck corn
  • Grate cheese
  • Press garlic
  • Measure ingredients, dump into a bowl and mix together
  • Help serve foods using tongs or spoons
  • Place soiled dishes in dishwasher or sink
  • Wash dishes
  • Wipe table
  • Place leftover foods into storage containers

Initially, it may take extra preparation, clean up and effort on your part, but eventually your child will become less dependent on your help. As their confidence and skills grow you can take a less hands-on role and look forward to your child making healthy choices as they independently prepare meals and snacks. According to a recent study, in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, young adults who regularly prepare meals at home were found to eat fast food less often, eat more servings of fruits and vegetables and have overall healthier eating patterns. Some tips to help your child gain confidence in the kitchen include:

  • Give your child two or three choices for a meal and let her/him decide what to serve
  • Put liquids and beverages into a smaller pitcher and have your child pour
  • Store items in drawers or on shelves that a child can reach without help, and then she/he can easily set the table, get a cup when thirsty or a spoon for yogurt.
  • Have a shelf in the refrigerator, which is eye level to a child, that stores foods available to eat or foods you will ask her/him to help you prepare.
  • Use a step stool or table that is child-sized, so your child can work and reach items easily to help reduce spills and accidents.

The best thing you can do to ensure the success of kids in the kitchen is to generate a welcoming atmosphere. Move at your child’s pace, have fun, laugh, ask their opinion and thoughts and finally, eat with your kids!

Kids will enjoy preparing this fun side-dish adapted from Jennifer Low’s Kitchen for Kids, copyright 2004, with an ice cube as the secret ingredient:

Baked Baby Carrot Packets

Makes 2 – ½ cup servings


1 cup baby carrots (about 15)

½ teaspoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon packed brown sugar

pinch of chili powder

1 ice cube


  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Mix the carrots, oil, brown sugar and chili powder in a bowl.
  3. Rip 2 large squares of foil (about 12 inches square.) Place the coated carrots and an ice cube on one piece of foil. Cover with the other piece. Roll up the four edges to make a sealed packet.
  4. Bake 40 minutes.
  5. Carefully open the foil and spoon carrots onto plate.
  6. Eat while warm.

–Mary Ligotti-Hitch, R.D. Registered Dietitian, Beaumont Weight Control Center

NOTE: This post was adapted from Cooking With Kids,, 1/08, and ADA’s Public Relations Team, Get Kid’s Cooking, 12/06.


2 Responses to “Kids Belong in the Kitchen”

  1. 1 Anonymous June 8, 2011 at 12:20 am

    Mary, Thanks for the fun tips on how to get kids more involved in the kitchen. Like your yummy recipe…especially that it is sounds easy to make. My child does not like “mushy” veggies. Beyond serving raw veggies, any other ideas on how to add flavor, while keeping the crunch? – Parenting fan

  2. 2 Anonymous July 5, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    Parenting Fan…check out the link below for 20-Kid Friendly Veggies. A favorite of my family is the Cauliflower Popcorn. Plan to make this at the October 4th Kid’s Cooking Class held at the Beaumont Weight Control Center and offered as part of our Healthy Family Special Events.

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