Kids in the Kitchen and Planting the Seeds of Culinary Confidence

by Ian Wickman

Kids LOVE the Kitchen

I think it’s something to do with the fact that they get told no so often, especially about “dangerous” or “messy” activities in our house… I may have some control issues… The thing is, there’s so much value and so much you CAN do with kids in the kitchen. Even if they don’t get to do everything at first they can pretty much help with anything. While they are at it they are sponging up all the information you’re feeding them. They are seeing what you cook, how you cook, what ingredients are like before they’re cooked, and so many other aspects of cooking.

and It Actually Starts with Ingredients

In fact, their culinary education starts well before we even get to the kitchen. They are learning while you shop for ingredients, while you peruse and talk at the farmers market, when you pick up some seeds to plant yourself, and everywhere else that food is around. When your kids see you in the kitchen they already have a wealth of information (good and bad) that they are drawing on. The kitchen is the finishing ground. This is one of the reasons it is so important to exhibit and instill good habits early on, this is the foundation on which your children will build their cooking and eating habits.

and as Early as Possible

One of the first things I remember “making” is steak tartare with my mom, okay so it was more like putting salt on ground beef… and I think I was 5. I also remember making plenty of bread, cinnamon rolls, and other tasty treats from a similar time frame. By the time I was in middle school our family started having each of us (I have 3 sisters) cook one meal each, by ourselves, every week. My youngest sister was in 3rd or 4th grade. Admittedly there were a lot of pasta with red sauce, canned corn, and applesauce meals… boiled hot dogs were a winner too… but it instilled in us the confidence that we could cook. Things progressed from there and I, actually we all, haven’t looked back.

so Start Small but Just Start

Now, with kids of my own, it’s my turn to help plant the seed of culinary confidence. My take is that you start small and build little victories. It’s okay if things aren’t perfect, it’s okay if things get messy, how else do you learn? As an aside, my personality does not naturally lend itself to accepting imperfection and messes, especially in the kitchen… but that’s one thing that my daughters have taught me, it’s okay, and it’s how we learn.

The best thing you can do is to just start, do it today, let them chop mushrooms with a butter knife, or take the tops off of strawberries, or stir something, or crack an egg and get goo all over! Try cooking something they love pizza, pasta, tacos, cookies, whatever. Laugh, love, and live a little.

with an Added Bonus

Kids are picky, stubborn, and have more willpower than you. The trifecta of parental frustration. It’s not a great combination when asking them to try something new. Here’s the bonus, if you get your kids to help they are much more likely to try things along the way. To try the finished dish. There’s pride in ownership. Even if they don’t like it right away they will be learning, and they will try it again, there’s research that says┬ákids need to taste something 10 – 15 separate times before they like it. That’s a lot of no’s and not eating before it gains acceptance into their world, but the more you involve them the better it will be.

and One Last Thing

iF you are new to the kitchen, if you are just learning, that’s okay too, that’s even better because you have the power to make the decision to learn now. To change for the better. To make messes. To make a horrible dish. To cook spaghetti and red sauce. Take it slow, start small, gain confidence. The wealth of information online at your fingertips is unprecedented and will get you cooking in no time!

Join the Conversation:

What do you remember about cooking? Did you help as a kid? Do your kids help you in the kitchen?


The picture above is my daughters (Ella 10, Avery 5) helping me make the braised pork ravioli! (I didn’t post the one, just before this was taken, of Avery brandishing the KitchenAid dough hook saying she was going to get Peter Pan…)


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