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Cooking with Young Children

Cooking with Young Children

By Amy Dargart-Stewart, FCPL Early Literacy Assistant

Using a fun activity to develop early literacy skills

Cooking together as a family is a fun learning activity for both young children and their caregivers. An activity that can improve many abilities at once, cooking can help children learn math, science, language and motor development in fun, engaging ways. Examples include:

  • Math: Following recipes teaches counting, measuring, sequencing, sorting and fractions.
  • Reading: Cookbooks and recipes teach print awareness while using cooking terms builds vocabulary.

To get started, here is a list of age-appropriate tasks children can perform in the kitchen:

2-year-olds can:

  • Scrub fruits and vegetables
  • Carry unbreakable items to the table
  • Dip foods
  • Tear salad greens
  • Break bread into pieces

3-year-olds can:

  • Pour liquids into batter
  • Mix ingredients together
  • Shake liquids in a closed container
  • Spread butter or soft spreads
  • Knead dough
  • Wash fruits and vegetables
  • Serve foods
  • Put things in the trash as they cook and after a meal

4- and 5-year-olds can:

  • Juice fruits
  • Peel certain fruits and vegetables
  • Mash soft foods
  • Cut soft foods with a plastic knife
  • Press cookie cutters
  • Measure dry ingredients
  • Crack open eggs
  • Beat eggs with an eggbeater
  • Set the table
  • Help clean up

Suggested Books:

  • Food Play by Amy Palanjian Preschoolers learn how to prepare their own food with activities that foster fun in the kitchen and promote healthy eating habits.
  • Jewish Fairy Tale Feasts by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple Jane Yolen retells some fun Jewish folktales and Heidi Stemple writes delicious Jewish recipes to accompany them.
  • The No-Cook Cookbook by Rebecca Woollard This cookbook helps children learn about making food by themselves — a skill that will last them a lifetime.
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