Little Sous Chefs: Cooking Activities for Kids

Author: Lisa Childs

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Category: Home and Life

Published Date: December 6, 2023

Updated Date: December 6, 2023

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Learn about the benefits of getting kids involved in the kitchen! This post features a detailed list of age appropriate cooking activities for kids and our best play kitchen gift guide for little sous chefs.

We love cooking together. It’s my favorite thing to do with my kids. Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.

Let’s chat about a topic close to my heart – involving your little ones in the kitchen. Preparing meals together creates lasting memories, builds important life skills, and encourages a love for food and family.

I get it. It’s definitely easier to cook without kids. There would be less spills, time saved, and controlled results. However, I have never regretted my kids helping in the kitchen. It’s always worth it! 

In professional kitchens, the sous chef works directly under the head chef to cook, develop recipes and menus, and oversee day-to-day operations. They act as assistants to the head chef. 

Here are 5 reasons to let your little sous chef help in the kitchen:


Cooking with kids is quality bonding time. That’s hard to come by in our hectic lives. We have to cook and eat everyday.

Multitask and make both preparing and eating meals quality family time. The kitchen can be a haven for connection. 

Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.

Even if your children just help stir ingredients, it gets them away from screens. It gives everyone involved a physical task to remain present. Take the moment to talk, laugh, and share stories.

In my kitchen, we even like to throw in some music and a little dance party. Experiences in the kitchen create an irreplaceable sense of togetherness.


The kitchen is a hands-on classroom! It’s an incredible way to practice essential life skills.

Measuring ingredients requires basic math (hello, fractions!). Chopping veggies or cracking eggs hones fine motor skills. Recipes require following directions. I’ve seen both my kids excel in all of these skills through what they’ve learned in the kitchen. 

Let the kitchen be a safe place to make mistakes and learn harmless natural consequences. Yes, spills will happen. Things will not be perfect and you might wish to do the tasks the exact way you like to do them. But, I promise it will be worth it! The skills developed while preparing food extend far beyond the kitchen.  

Even babies benefit from cooking! It’s a great sensory experience, with new sounds and smells. Watching a parent move about the kitchen can help a baby develop visual tracking. Listening to a caregiver narrate cooking tasks builds language skills. 

Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.

We have all wondered how to get kids to eat healthy. Did you know children are more willing to try foods they have helped to prepare? Little ones who help in the kitchen are usually more adventurous eaters. They learn to appreciate wholesome, homemade food. 

It’s important for kids to see firsthand where their meals come from. Involve kids throughout the entire process.

Take them shopping to select fresh ingredients at the grocery store or local farmers’ market. I like to explain everything when I’m at the store to my little ones, including why I would choose a certain kind of apple and what to look for when picking bananas. This can positively influence food choices. 

One of the first tasks I like toddlers to do is help cut strawberries and soft vegetables. You can use special kitchen knives made for children that are perfect to teach cutting skills, and also keep them safe.

Working with produce is a great way to teach children about healthy eating. You can arrange fruits and vegetables in fun designs or use special food cutters to make fun shapes. Letting kids be involved in the process makes it so much more appealing to try new foods!

Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.

I will never forget the first time my son made his own breakfast. First, it can start with something simple like assembling a yogurt bowl with fruit and toppings. Then, make your own toast. Eventually, even a 5 or 6 year old can learn how to make scrambled eggs safely and correctly. 

Watching your child master a new cooking skill is like witnessing a tiny victory. We were both so proud!

At first, teaching my kids cooking skills was an investment in time and effort. But it has paid dividends now! It’s incredibly helpful to have capable kids who make basic meals, prepare snacks, and pack their own lunches. 

It gives kids ownership. As they gain confidence in the kitchen, they also develop a sense of independence. Whether it’s cracking an egg or assembling a sandwich, these small tasks contribute to a growing sense of self-reliance.

Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to send a grown child off knowing they can make basic nutritious meals?!


Some of my fondest memories are the simple ones–little ones donned in aprons with flour on their cheeks and smiles. Shared moments in the kitchen become cherished family memories. I hope my kids have traditions and recipes to carry with them into adulthood. It’s not just about the food; it’s about the joy of creating something together.

Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.

Embrace the chaos and the mess (but don’t forget to include your kids in the cleanup too!). Start small and carve out a few times a month together in the kitchen. I guarantee you’ll create cherished memories and valuable skills. And it might be yummy too!

Obviously, it’s important to always practice kitchen safety! Keep young children away from hot stoves or sharp knives. Use your best judgment to decide whether your child is capable of a task. We have created a list of some age appropriate cooking tasks to help you get started.


My kids have loved cooking with me since they were babies strapped to my chest in a carrier! They have no fear in the kitchen! Here is a list of ideas to get kids involved from the very start.

Of course, each child is different and will have different abilities and interests. Parents will know their children best. Choose cooking activities that are appropriate for your own sous chef. However, keep in mind that children are much, much more capable than we might expect!

All of these skills build upon each other. Even if you’re just starting to get kids in the kitchen at 8 years old, use some of the toddler skills as practice to get them comfortable. Remember, confidence is key! 

The first rule in my house (no matter the age) is you must wash your hands before and after handling or eating food! This is a given for all ages and teaches a basic life skill. It’s important to begin as babies and toddlers. This is a habit they should be learning. Yes, even babies can be brought to a sink and have their hands washed with soap. 


  • Watching. Observing parents or adults in the kitchen is so important at this age! I always had my little one in the kitchen with me (in a safe space!). Even if they can’t talk yet, it was important to me to explain and talk to my baby. 
  • Touching. Letting babies touch is so important! Holding large fruits and vegetables, or playing with safe kitchen items, like mini silicone spatulas and small bowls, helps get children familiarized with these tools.
  • Tasting. When age appropriate, expose your child to as many flavors and textures as possible! Pickiness can stem from not trying or being scared to try new foods as they get older. 
Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.

12-24 MONTHS

This is my most favorite age for toddlers! They grow and learn so quickly and turn into unique, little individuals at this age. This is a fantastic age to start kids in the kitchen.

  • Washing fruit and vegetables. Try using two large bowls of clean and rinsing water to contain this task to a countertop, instead of the sink. Don’t fill the bowls with too much water. Help kids learn how to gently wash, rinse, and dry produce.
  • Cutting. You might be apprehensive to let a toddler use anything resembling a knife, but I promise there are some good alternatives! We started out using plastic knives from Ikea or just plastic cutlery knives. These are perfect for cutting dough (or play dough) or other soft things, like a string cheese stick. Another great tool is an egg slicer to cut soft foods. They don’t need to necessarily be contributing to the actual meal! Let them “help” while you cook at the same time! Once they’re closer to 2-2½  years old, you can also add in other cutting tools, like smaller cheese knives or plastic pizza cutters with sharper edges.
  • Tearing/Picking. This is a fun task for littles! Tearing up lettuce, bread, greens, or picking grapes off the stem is a wonderful sensory and fine motor skill task. 
  • Pouring. Pouring ingredients (even colored water!) into different sized bowls, cups, or muffin tins is a fantastic activity for developing toddlers. Helping a grown up pour ingredients into a bowl is so rewarding for kids, even though it is a simple task. I like to hold a child’s hand with a measuring cup or spoon in it to help them keep it level, then pour ingredients into the cup and then let them dump it into the bowl. Making boxed brownies or cake is perfect for this task!
  • Mixing. My kids absolutely love to mix stuff! And yes, stuff usually flies out of the bowl. But if it’s a big concern, you can let kids mix ingredients in a separate bowl. Another option is to let them mix play food toys in a bowl right alongside you. As they get older, this is a great time to teach some basic mixing techniques.
Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.


There’s a lot of growth that happens in this time, but kids are extremely capable! Most everything in this list is the same as before, but adding in some more technique and skills.

  • Cutting using kid’s knives or small paring knives. Teach the importance of placing food on its widest part to gain stability. Some of my favorites for this age group: cutting tops off of strawberries and slicing in half, cutting mushrooms, cutting large chunks of watermelon into smaller pieces, halving grapes, cutting banana slices, and slicing bread.
  • Measuring. Begin teaching about measurements and how to correctly measure ingredients. I’ll purposefully use smaller measuring cups (¼ cup vs 1 cup) when working with toddlers because they love doing it! Quantity > Efficiency. Children love scooping flour and using a flat edge to scrape the top. This is also a great time to help with counting and numbers.
  • Mixing. At this age, you can help kids learn how to properly scrape a bowl, learn the order in which to add ingredients and why, and learn how to fold batter vs just mixing. I also let children help use a stand mixer and an electric hand mixer with an adult’s help (actually holding the hand mixer with their hand). They’re not quite old enough to sit and mix with a mixer yet and they can be dangerous if not handled properly.
  • Kneading. It’s so important to get children accustomed to handling food with their hands! You can’t be comfortable or confident in the kitchen if you’re disgusted by different textures. I always tear off a little piece of any kind of dough to let kids knead, shape, and play with when baking.
  • Seasoning. Kids LOVE pouring ingredients into a dish! Give them opportunities to sprinkle in (and smell or taste) seasonings. Sample a dish before and after salt, and let them marvel at the difference. When kids are younger, you’ll have to hold their hand while holding a seasoning bottle (unless you really like your food extra seasoned!). Then, you can give them a little more freedom as they get older.
  • Pushing buttons. It must be universal that kids love to push buttons (literally and figuratively!) Whenever there’s a chance to turn on and whirl the blender or turn on the Instant Pot, I would let my kids do it. Even teaching how to safely use the microwave is a good skill (as long as the kids understand it isn’t a toy). Kids love to feel “grown up” by using real-world tools, so this gives them massive confidence.
  • Decorating. Yes, it’s mostly a disaster when it comes to decorating and garnishing, but kids love it! Let them add sprinkles, powdered sugar, herbs, or other finishing touches to your dishes. It’s so fun and an easy introduction to cooking.
  • Spreading. Kids can learn how to correctly make a sandwich and spread mayonnaise, peanut butter, nutella, butter, or jam on bread. This is a great fine motor skill.
  • Cracking eggs. Yes, young toddlers can crack eggs (with yolks in-tact!). Teach them one at a time by holding the eggs in their hands and doing it with them. Doing this in the height of the morning rush before older siblings go to school isn’t the best time, as it may make a little bit of a mess. Take some time and give them lots of chances to practice. I love my German Pancake recipe for this since it uses a lot of eggs! I teach kids that you need to crack an egg on a flat surface (not an edge like a counter or bowl). Then teach the amount of pressure needed to crack but not smash an egg, as well as the amount of pressure needed to open an egg gently. Lots of practice makes perfect!! 
  • Baking. Baking is the best segway into cooking since kids don’t have to work with actual heat on a stove, but can see the fruits of their labor after the cooking process. Pull a high chair or chair up to the oven (make sure they don’t touch if the outside gets hot!) and let them see bread rising or cookies turning golden brown.
Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.


This is such a fun age to have kids in the kitchen because they can listen, follow instructions, and have a longer attention span. 

  • Cutting. I allow my kids to use real kitchen knives with supervision from around 3-4 years old, depending on their ability. My 5 and 8 year olds are excellent with their knife skills! At this age, I give each child their own cutting board and knife. I clearly and carefully demonstrate the way something should be cut. We make sure all the safety precautions are in place (no standing on chairs, no waving knives, no fingers in front of blades, proper hand placement on the knife and board, etc.) We have yet to have a cut or accident. Some good foods to start with are cucumbers, quarters of potato (not whole potatoes or round foods yet), bell peppers that have already been sliced in large pieces, tofu, cheese, strawberries, lettuce, and pieces of apple. I avoid anything that’s too juicy or squishy, like tomatoes. I also avoid anything that’s too hard where the knife could get stuck, such as whole potatoes. I also love using my vegetable chopper for this age. It’s a safe way to have kids help in the kitchen.
  • Measuring. Kids at this age are capable of basic math. Start with counting how many scoops go into a recipe. Then you can add in some basic addition or subtraction. Kids in kindergarten and first grade can even do some basic fractions, like how two halves equal a whole. Being able to relate these types of experiences will help them immensely at school when they see numbers on the page. Kids at this age are also capable of understanding why it’s important to fill a measuring cup all the way full and different techniques, such as packing a cup with brown sugar and scooping flour into a cup.
  • Cooking! Yes, with real heat! We carefully bring a chair, stool, or kitchen helper to the counter and help kids cook over the stove. This is such a fun experience for kids who feel so proud of themselves for doing a task they see adults do daily. I think this can be as simple as carefully helping place (not throw) noodles into a pot, or as advanced as making a scrambled egg over medium low heat. Obviously I do not let children hold hot pots and pans, but I will allow them to carefully stir food on the stove with supervision or active guidance. 

It’s important to have kids in a safe place (usually to the side of the stove on a chair) and with enough clearance so their faces are not eye level with the stove. This is when you must use your best judgment on your own children and their abilities. I’m just sharing what has worked for me. One safe way to get kids involved is to get a portable griddle and make pancakes start to finish! This way, the griddle can be placed on a low heat on the table or counter where there is more room. My 8 year old loves to pour batter on the griddle and turn the pancakes once bubbles start to pop. My 6 year old likes to add toppings to the batter once on the griddle, and will turn the pancakes, or take them off the griddle with a spatula. They both love cooking! 

Photo by Bre Welch of Pepperfox Photo for Allrecipes, part of the Dotdash Meredith publishing family.


At this age, kids can do almost anything adults can with supervision and trust. You’ll have to let go of some control, but they can do it! Kids this age have the strength, cognitive maturity, and awareness to work with most foods and learn techniques. Of course, all of this takes trust from the parents and the time to learn and improve their skills. I love teaching my kids each day the “why” behind food. And, if I don’t know, we’ll find out together using YouTube or Google. It’s so empowering to give kids this gift of being confident in the kitchen. 

In addition to the skills listed above, older kids can:

  • Peel. Using a vegetable peeler takes much more skill and coordination. Start with carrots. Teach kids how to firmly hold the carrot by the top, thickest part. If it’s slippery, it can be held with a dry or damp paper towel. Then, firmly but gently peel away from the body (teach that blades should never be pulled toward the body). I have fond memories of being in charge of peeling many carrots when my mom made Japanese curry growing up!
  • Read and follow recipes. Teach kids that you must read a recipe all the way through before starting to help avoid any bumps along the way. Then, teach how recipes are written (recipes written correctly will have ingredients listed in the order they are used in the recipe). Learn different techniques and order of operations, like preheating an oven, preparing a baking pan, sifting flour, chilling or cooling, and resting.
  • Cooking Independently. My 8 year old isn’t quite to the point where he makes food on the stove every day, but he loves to use the air fryer as a big kid “Easy Bake” oven to make so many easy foods. He can also use the toaster and microwave with ease. Giving kids the opportunities to do this for themselves and other family members gives them insane confidence and skill that you just can’t learn anywhere else!


My team has gathered some gift ideas for the little sous chefs in your life! Some inspire play, others are actually helpful tools in the kitchen. Each product has been tested and adored by my own children or my teammates’ kids! 


I love a play kitchen that leaves the imagination to the child. This is a wooden kitchen, without all the electronics, lights, and noises. It has everything a little cook needs with a sink, stove, oven with window, cabinet, shelf, and turn-able clicking knobs.
Here’s another great play kitchen option. Just remember, basic is best!


These sturdy, wooden food toys are built to last. Teach your little sous chef to create well-balanced meals!
This is a versatile food set–perfect for a play kitchen, or a fun way to teach sorting.
These matching eggs in a carton are always a hit! Kids learn shapes, matching, and of course, imaginative kitchen play.
Children can take orders, pay with play money, and serve up a sweet treat, just like their favorite ice cream shop.


This neat play kitchen sink features running water! Start your helpers early.


Sometimes all it takes to encourage courageous, adventurous eating is a little fun. There is power in play! Serve healthy snacks and meals with a unique utensil.

Push, scoop, and lift with these fun construction utensils.
These adorable food picks can work like a fork, or just decorate any snack or meal.
Use these to keep food from touching, or as a colorful serving dish! They’re great for kid-size servings. These also work great in play kitchens.
Here is another fun dining set.
Our list has construction vehicles and dinosaurs. These toddler utensils are perfect for little girls.
Chopsticks take some practice. These cute trainers help kids with the proper placement.


Get your kids involved in the kitchen! These knives are strong enough to cut through an apple, but safe for little fingers. The perfect tool to practice knife safety.
Children are practically guaranteed to eat more vegetables when served in fun shapes! My kids love to help me cut up cucumbers, carrots, and more with these vegetable cutter shapes.
No more balancing precariously on a kitchen stool! Try this kid’s step stool with a safety rail for ultimate stability.

These are perfect for kids to start learning basic knife skills.

This chopper is a great way to get kids safely involved in meal prep.
Kids can use this early on to help chop eggs, strawberries, and more.
Teach kids measuring and fractions with these visual fraction measuring cups. The best place to start with beginners!


This cookbook does a great job at explaining the science behind baking in basic language.

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Hi! I'm Lisa!

I founded Tried, Tested, and True in 2019 to help moms like me develop confidence and joy in the kitchen.

Since then, I have taught millions of home cooks around the world through our tried and true recipes and Youtube tutorials.

In 2021, I wrote my first book called, “I Love My Instant Pot: Cooking for One”!

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