People often ask can toddlers help in the kitchen and the answer is a resounding Yes! As we know toddlers and preschoolers often want to be with you all the time and that includes when you are working in the kitchen. They love getting up to bench height and having a go at things whether it is washing the vegetables, cracking eggs, stirring the mixture – or the best bit, licking the beaters.

Letting wee ones help in the kitchen allows a lot of informal learning to take place – counting, reading, exploring through mixing, encouraging a positive attitude to food, and learning that not all biscuits come from packets!

What can we do to encourage this interest in food preparation as they get older? We know from research that young people today are very savvy when it comes to technology. Young kids can text at an alarming speed and certainly know more about computers than many of their parents. But can they do the basics in the kitchen?

At least two Colmar Brunton polls over the past three years would indicate that basic cooking remains a skill that young people do not feel confident with. Children might be confident cooking toast and making a sandwich, but we need to build on these skills so that they can look after themselves once they leave home. Leaving home may be a long way in the future but it is never too early to start building up a skill base.

Why is baking good for kids?

With food prices continuing to rise knowing how to cook a nutritious home cooked meal can also help financially. We know that meals cooked from scratch can be cheaper and they are often more nutritious, being lower in fat, sugar and salt than convenience options.

Sometimes when I stand in the kitchen making something I try to work out how I learnt to cook. Sure, part of my university training was spent in a food laboratory, but I am sure that before I got there I had my basic skills in place.

The chance for observation is one starting place. My mother did a lot of home baking, preserves, jams, soups, sauces and chutneys. While I may not have helped much with this there were certainly things I picked up on and it has made me keen to try my own hand at things. If you have never had the opportunity to see jams, sauces, chutneys being made it may all seem too difficult to even try.

Hands-on fun is another way to encourage learning without children even realising they are learning. While I am sure my mother was not always a willing recipient of my help with baking I know I learnt a lot from being up at the bench. The most important thing I learnt though was that it did not take long, it tasted great and it was relatively easy to do.

So much with cooking comes as second nature – the more you do it the less you have to think about it. I still clearly remember y one occasion when I was responsible for cooking dinner for my family. Getting the timing of everything really threw me at the start – when I asked mum what time the potatoes, meat and other vegetables had to go on I remember being really amazed at the fact she really struggled to tell me. The reason was she just did it without thinking and it was all so natural for her.

The first phase of cooking though is deciding to what to cook. Here’s 5 easy baking recipes for kids, with just a few ingredients. They can create these with you on hand to begin with, but they should be able to learn to make themselves too.

5 Kid Friendly Baking Recipes for Children

1. Gingerbread Men Cookies

gingerbread men cookie

2. Coconut and Orange Cookies

Coconut and Orange Cookies

3. Chocolate brownie


4. Basic Cupcake Recipe

Basic Cupcake Recipe

5. Delicious Shortbread

Delicious Shortbread

Encouraging your children to cook is going to give them life skills and independence for the future. Set a challenge in your family of getting the children involved in every aspect of the food planning and preparation – even if it just for one meal a week. It may take more time on your part at the beginning but if you can foster an interest in cooking at a young age it is a gift you give your children for life.

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Fiona Boyle is a registered dietitian and nutritionist. She runs a private practice and gives nutrition advice to individuals and families to help meet their health needs and personal goals.

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