Parents are always on the lookout for new daily activities that are simple, educational, and fun for the whole family. There’s a lot of fun (and a lot of learning!) to be discovered simply by moving your toddler playtime to an exciting new location - the kitchen! Cooking with your children improves their basic skills, fosters family bonding, teaches safety, and empowers them. You might wind up with a mess or two to clean, but those messes become wonderful memories, and may even set your little ones up for a more successful future!

Kitchen activities are a great daily habit to involve your kids in early on.  Children’s development relies heavily on instilling habits and behaviors from a young age. Children learn from observing the behavior of others, so watching the way you approach health and social interaction in the kitchen can make a strong impact on them while they’re still young and impressionable. Letting them see you find joy in trying new foods, take care handling sharp tools, and playfully experiment with flavors is the perfect way to open the door to a lifetime of culinary creativity.

Ultimately, what children take away from your kitchen is what they will carry into adulthood. Want to get your kids engaged in preparing family meals? Here’s how!

Get them involved in meal planning

Getting children involved in meal planning can empower them to make decisions. Studies show that the most successful kiss are the ones who were encouraged to take the lead in easy or moderately difficult tasks. The same study also found that kids who are told what to do and given few choices had a harder time regulating emotions later on.

Meal planning is a great opportunity to practice empowerment and choice. Go through cookbooks and recipe websites together and let kids pick out what they want to make and eat! By doing so, they’ll practice forming their own opinions and making strategic decisions. And as a bonus, they’ll expand their vocabulary when they encounter new words in the process.

Take them grocery shopping

Taking children grocery shopping can help hone their math, decision-making, and social skills. Using the recipes they chose, you can encourage their participation by asking them to do simple calculations about the quantities you would need for each item. Invite kids who are a bit too young to count cups and teaspoons to pick their favorite ice cream flavors, sprinkle colors, or pasta shapes. By actively engaging them in shopping, you’ll be helping them exercise their agency and initiative, and they’ll be even more excited to cook with (and taste) the ingredients they choose!

Start them off with simple tasks

Make sure to prioritize safety by assigning age-appropriate tasks in the kitchen. Although cooking and baking can improve your kids’ fine motor skills,  it’s important to start simple and gradually  increase the difficulty of their tasks.

Younger children can start off with tasks like stirring the batter or measuring ingredients. Once they’re experts with a whisk and a tablespoon, you can start assigning more complex tasks like cutting soft ingredients, cracking eggs, and even working with the stove. Starting simple and increasing slowly lets kids find their own pace and develop confidence in their abilities. And following verbal instructions allows them to exercise their vocabulary, listening, and comprehension skills!

Creating a safe and encouraging environment

Making your kitchen a safe and encouraging environment for your kids allows them to cultivate their enthusiasm for cooking. Provide little ones with their own kitchen gear, like a special apron, personal utensils, and colorful measuring cups. You can even create their own special kitchen space, using our Toddler Tower, to let them know that they truly have a place in the kitchen. After all, kitchen time isn’t just play - it’s a first step to contributing to nurturing the family. That’s a moment we believe is worth celebrating!

In these precious young years with your little ones, you’re instilling values that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives. Engaging kids in the kitchen not only develops their practical skills and instills values of work and confidence but also allows you to create wonderful and meaningful memories they will fondly carry into adulthood.

Here’s to every messy, magical dadada moment your kitchen will hold!

Article written by Renee Jesse for the exclusive use of

Healthy Children
Maryville University
Stanford University