9 Ways Moms Get Their Kids to Help in the Kitchen Without a Struggle

Wendy Robinson | Feb 1, 2016 Big Kid
9 Ways Moms Get Their Kids to Help in the Kitchen Without a Struggle

mom and son baking

It was a typical Tuesday night, and I was once again trying to race the clock to get dinner on the table so we'd have enough time to squeeze in homework, baths, and a little bit of quality time before bed. My youngest, wanting some attention now, was attached to my leg as I was trying to chop some onions.

For a moment, I thought of shooing her away. But instead I pulled up a chair and let her stand beside me and put chopped vegetables into the salad. She beamed with pride about being a helper, and then -- miracle of miracles! -- she actually ate some salad that night at dinner.

(Okay, fine, she ate three bell pepper bites and spit out the lettuce, but still -- progress!)

Hey, maybe having a sense of pride in helping create their meals can make kids more likely to try new and healthy foods. Plus, who doesn't want a little help in the kitchen?

It's worth a shot, so I hit up some of my wise mom friends to share how they've found success getting their kids into the kitchen. Pop on your chef's hat and get inspired!


Image via iStock.com/MilosStankovic

  • Allow Them to Dream Up Meals


    iStock.com/ bluecinema

    "My kids like to pick a meal. Even if it's some crazy combo, we try to honor it. But we work with them to have a protein, veggie, carb, et cetera.

    "Now that they are older they like to make dinner for us, complete with menu, sides, and the whole nine yards. We also ask them what they want or need from the grocery store. It's interesting to hear their ideas." -- Patricia P., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Let Them Lick Their Fingers


    iStock.com/ DmitryLityagin

    "We found a child-safe knife, Oliver has his own apron and chef hat, and we have a learning tower that boosts him counter height. He loves cooking and baking and tastes all the ingredients (including things like baking powder). His favorites are brown sugar and cinnamon." -- Laura W., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Turn on a Cooking Show


    iStock.com/ Wavebreakmedia

    "Our whole family likes to watch cooking shows on TV, so that was a natural place to start with the kids. We watch shows and that leads to talking about what we think we'd like or not like about each meal. Then we often decide to try to make it ourselves, and the kids like to narrate like they're on a show while they cook." -- Melissa P., Tucson, Arizona

    More from The Stir: How to Cut Carrots for Cooking: The Stir TV

  • Grow a Garden


    iStock.com/ Susan Chiang

    "Taking kids grocery shopping or to the farmers' market helps. We'll let them choose meat, veggies, and fruit, but hands down the best way to get them excited about food is tending a garden. Our kids go to a school where they incorporate food prep in the curriculum. So they've been doing food jobs since they were toddlers. That includes pouring milk from a little pitcher into their glass, cutting pickles, peeling oranges, slicing apples, baking a wee red potato in the microwave for a snack, even spreading butter on toast.

    "Now I have them stand at the stove and mix things. They measure for me, and help mix when I bake. They taste ingredients and spices. I don't have to try to make it interesting." -- Yesenia A., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Make Cooking a Weekend Ritual


    iStock.com/ jmalov

    "I only let the kids help with cooking on weekends. I have more patience, we aren't stressed about getting food on the table, and they are more engaged. Weekend breakfast is my favorite meal to cook with my kids. I let them assemble and add ingredients, run appliances, and use knives and peelers under close supervision." -- Alice S., Saint Paul, Minnesota

  • Give Them the Responsibility They Crave



    "I think the biggest thing is to not underestimate what your kid can do. I let my son help stir food on the stove, use a small knife for chopping, and even use the blender. He was starting to lose interest in cooking when I was having him stick to things that were 'safe.' He is bigger now and he likes having more important cooking jobs." -- Joyce H., Spokane, Washington

  • Stop the Power Struggles


    iStock.com/ jonas unruh

    "My son is a super picky eater. I've found that letting him help cook and have some control over his meals makes him a bit less picky. Making our own individual pizzas is a good example. I win because he is eating the same meal as everyone else. He wins because he put it together himself and none of the pepperonis are touching -- heaven forbid." -- Karen S., Hudson, Wisconsin

    More from The Stir: 10 Cute, Yummy Breakfast Ideas for Picky Eaters (PHOTOS)

  • Begin With Baking


    iStock.com/ JaniceRichard

    "I think starting with baking is the way to go, especially for littler kids. Baking gives them lots of chances to measure and stir. When the end results is cookies, you know they'll be more than happy to eat the final product! Baking is also a cool way to teach about science and math." -- Brenda M., Boulder, Colorado

  • Get a Kid-Centric Cookbook



    "I got my little chef a couple of kid-friendly cookbooks. Cookbooks with lots of pictures is a great way to start. Every week she looks through her book and chooses a new recipe to try. It has helped her be more willing to try new things." -- Linda S., Eugene, Oregon

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