How To Get Kids To Help in the Kitchen: Nutrition Month

Kids Cooking

We’re investors in healthy futures!

I love this week’s theme, how to get kids to help in the kitchen, because it’s so close to heart. As you may have read from last week’s blog about My Food Story, I shared my struggles as a child that impacted the rest of my life. This is my big WHY behind nutriFoodie; working with parents for nutrition and food coaching and providing opportunities for kids to be involved with food and cooking helps reduce the impact of the diet culture we live in.

“A recent Ipsos survey found that 38 percent of parents rarely or never let their child prepare a meal or snack”

I wanted to highlight some common issues that usually stop parents from getting their kids involved and how to deal with them:

My Child is Too Picky…

I can’t begin to tell you how often I have parents sharing that their kid(s) don’t like zucchini, mushrooms, peppers, all veggies or whatever it is that comes up…To their surprise, when we prepare it in our cooking camp, the kids devour it and then can’t stop talking about it!

There’re a few things that happen in our camp:

  • The food we make is never forced to be eaten, but it’s a rule to “try” everything with an open mind.
  • It’s also a rule of our camp to never say “ew” or “disgusting.” This encourages positivity, respect and love around our food.
  • The food they make becomes “cool” because everyone else is eating it.
  • The kids try new ways of cooking or preparing foods that they thought they didn’t like. As a result, most kids are pleasantly surprised by the taste.
  • The food they make themselves is something that they are proud of and empowered to enjoy.
  • And most of all, it’s not made by the parents (the struggle is real…).

It also takes anywhere between 15-40 times of exposure to a food before a child might choose to eat it. Exposure can be having it on the table, seeing others eat it, seeing it on their plate, trying it, etc..

Cooking with Kids

But, The Mess…

Another barrier we see is having to clean after your child. The more we get our children involved with food, removing all judgment, allowing them to explore and discover, the more they’ll be confident in taking charge of their food as they become more independent. It’s like everything else we would do for our children – it’s all for the long haul! So in that case.. it’s worth the clean-up – at least sometimes.
In our cooking camps, we teach our 8-12 year old campers that cleaning is part of cooking! They all partake in cleaning after themselves – that’s something that can be implemented at home too. The younger they are to start modelling this, the easier it is as they grow older. And if it doesn’t all go as planned – who cares! It’s the experience that matters.

So what can your child do, you ask?

Our summer camps are always a fun environment to have kids involved. Below, I’ve listed some suggestions to do so at home, as well as a guideline by Dietitians of Canada on age-appropriate tasks. I hope you learn something new and enjoy the experience – from our kitchens to yours:

Simple Start

  • Collect any ingredients you list to them – if they are old enough, have them read the recipe and get the ingredients independently
  • Collect equipment and utensils: bowls, spoons, measuring cups, spatulas, etc.
  • Rinse veggies, fruits, or canned beans in a colander and open bags or cans safely

Food Safety

  • Use this opportunity to discuss food safety – example:
    • Clean/wipe down the area to do the prep in – before, during and after washing fruits/veggies properly
    • using different cutting boards and knives for veggies vs. meats
    • using different utensils and plates for raw vs. cooked


  • Have them describe the shape and texture of certain foods or get them to guess what they are if they are unfamiliar with it (for example, the different herbs, different beans, or different potatoes)
  • Practice mindfulness by asking questions. Describe where food comes from – how did it get to be in our fridge, or in a can?

In Action

  • If they are learning how to multiply and divide – ask them to do so with the recipe
  • Have a mise en place of ingredients (i.e. prepare all the ingredients first, so that the assembly is easier) – this helps with containing the mess, as well as keep you and your child organized and focused
  • Taste the mixture throughout the entire recipe and notice different flavours. Make adjustments as needed by asking each other questions – is it sweet enough? Is it salty enough? Is it too citrusy? What else can you add to put your own spin on it? Support your child’s creativity.
  • Mix ingredients, pour a mixture, smash a veg or fruit, tear lettuce or remove herb leaves — the more they think they’re doing, the better control you’ll have over the situation 😉
  • Ask them to help you clean as you go


  • Take photos together while cooking, or of the plates
  • Set up the table extra nice, and eat together
  • Reflect on the experience, and discuss how to make it better in the future.

Here’s a simple guideline referenced by Dietitians of Canada’s – Based on age group, there are some kitchen skills you can start with:

  • 2-3 year olds can wash vegetables and fruit or tear lettuce and salad greens
  • 3-4 year olds can mash potatoes and bananas or mix together batters
  • 4-6 year olds can measure dry and liquid ingredients or set the table
  • 6-8 year olds can toss salad ingredients together or make a simple breakfast
  • 8-12 year olds can make their own school lunch or help to plan meals
  • Teens can follow more complicated recipes or assemble and mix most ingredients. They can also be in charge of making one meal per week.

Learn more about some of our camps likes Nature’s Kitchen & Multicultural Cooking.

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