Cooking can be a fun activity for the whole family and can bring you closer together. 

Children of all ages can take on different tasks to help prepare meals and snacks, with varying levels of supervision. With a little encouragement, you’ll be able to get children excited about making great food. This can go a long way to helping your child develop a healthy relationship with food and learn a key life skill. 

In this article we give you our top tips on how to get your young ones involved - from toddlers to teenagers.

Top tips: 

  • Allow plenty of time. Cooking with children can take up to twice as long as normal. 

  • Get organised. Make sure you have everything you need before you start. Check the recipe carefully and make a list of everything you need, including equipment. 

  • Take a deep breath and remember: a bit of mess is ok! Try not to get stressed about it – it is all part of the process. Clean up as you go and get the kids to help with this too – it is an important life skill. 

  • Who’s doing what? Put some thought into which cooking tasks your child will be able to do, based on their own skills and development. To begin with, you may need to work this out by trial and error. If you’re cooking with more than one child, think about whether they’re going to take turns or have different jobs. A little bit of planning can save a lot of arguing! 

  • Keep things simple to start with, while you get a feel for what they can do. 

  • Don’t worry if things go wrong. Even if your recipes don’t turn out like the pictures, you will have had fun and learnt some lessons for next time you try. 

Little ones

Young children have a limited attention span – so have another activity on hand, like colouring, to keep them busy if their attention wanders. But with your supervision, they’ll love to pour, wash, mix (cool ingredients), sift, rub-in, mash, touch, taste and smell. 

Recipes which involve mixing, combining and assembling like dips, bread, scones, muffins, layered fruit and yoghurt pots work really well. 

Using their (clean) hands to squish berries to make compote is always a fun one! 

Choose soft fruit and veg (like bananas, strawberries, melon, cucumber and mushrooms) for children of this age to use. Cut them into sizes which are easy for small hands to hold. 
 

Six to eleven 

With close supervision from you, children can now start to learn how to chop and peel safely – and feel like real chefs in the process. They’ll love to try weighing and measuring, peeling, chopping, crushing, mixing, whisking, squeezing, sifting, grating, rolling, rubbing-in and mashing. 

Get them decorating a pizza with as many different colours of vegetables as they can or making a picture on their pizza using their toppings. 

Link what they’re making with what’s important to them right now – edible Christmas decorations, parkin for Bonfire Night or something scary (though not scary-tasting!) for Halloween. 

Teenagers

Your teenager might want to take much more of a leading role in cooking now – which is great, as long as you’re still on hand to supervise. If their friends are coming over, get them cooking the meal. 

Build up their confidence on the things they love to cook – if desserts are their thing, ask them if they’ll cook that fantastic cake they tried when you’ve got your friends coming over. 

And get them making their takeaway – try our tasty Pizza or Chilli Enchiladas recipes rather than spending a fortune at the chippy. 

More resources on teenagers

Now it is over to you! We hope this has given you some ideas on how to make cooking fun and get the whole family involved.