Cooking and Snacking with Children

Children can have fun taking part in simple cooking activities. Helping in the kitchen can help their reading and math too. The wow of "I made it myself" may improve the acceptance of new foods by a fussy eater.

What Children Can Do:
Help pick the menu.
Set the table.
Cut soft foods, like bananas, with a butter knife.
Measure ingredients, like flour, and add to bowl.
Stir and mix.
Rip lettuce or spinach into bite-size pieces.
Knead and shape dough for breads, biscuits, or rolls.
Help clean off the table.

What You Can Do:
Don't worry about messes.
Share a special moment with your child.
Be a role model. Eat nutritious meals and snacks with your child.

Why Cook with Kids?

Preparing food with young children has many benefits. They have fun and learn too.

  1. They measure and count.
  2. They see, feel, smell, touch, and hear like a scientist.
  3. Trying foods from many cultures helps children learn about others and themselves.
  4. Reading is developed as children point out pictures and words on recipe pages.
  5. Children begin to link nutrition and health as you talk with them during food activities and meals.
  6. "I made it myself" can motivate children to try a new food.

Get Ready for Food Activities

What Adults Can Do:
Be organized. Have food items arranged and ready to make the recipe.
Be specific. Explain what is going to happen before the activity begins.
Be patient. Children are likely to spill and make messes.
Choose recipes. Pick simple recipes that children can make. Each booklet has a recipe along with other food ideas. These sequences are easy for children to follow and tasty too!
Involve parents. The more hands helping out the better.

What Children Can Do:
Start by washing hands. Make sure children use warm soapy water and wash for 20-30 seconds before rinsing.
Help prepare food. Children can wash, sort, and cut foods with a butter knife.
Keep it simple. Children can do simple tasks like:

  > Mixing
  > Kneading dough
  > Measuring
  > Opening packages

Set the table.
Clean up. Even young children can bring cups and dishes to the sink, wipe the table, or bring garbage to the can.

There are so many different tasks with food activities that every child, no matter what her age or skill level, can feel successful.

Hand Washing

Hand washing is the first step in practicing good food safety. Make sure that young children are aware that they must have clean hands before touching food. To show children how to wash their hands the right way, do this fun activity.

Hand Washing Activity

What You Need:
Petroleum jelly, baby oil, or cooking oil
Soap and water
White paper towels

Have children rub a small amount of petroleum jelly or oil on their hands and then sprinkle their hands with cinnamon. Explain that cinnamon is "pretend germs" that get on hands when they play, sneeze, or use the bathroom. They need to get rid of these germs before they touch or eat food.

First, have children wash their hands with cool water. When they dry their hands on a white paper towel they should find that the cinnamon "germs" did not all go away. Now wash their hands with soap and warm water.

Children should wash their hands for as long as it takes to sing the ABCs (20 - 30 seconds). Dry hands with a white paper towel and look for "germs". Discuss what happened. Explain that germs are so tiny that you cannot see them, but germs can be washed away just like the cinnamon. Germs can make you or your friends sick (with a cold or stomach ache) so you don't want to get germs in your mouth.

Food Safety Rules

Four basic rules you should always follow to keep food activities safe:

  1. Clean - Wash hands and surfaces often.
  2. Separate - Don't cross contaminate. For example, never use a knife or cutting board to cut raw meat then to cut fruits or vegetables.
  3. Cook - Always cook foods to proper temperatures and make sure they are cooked all the way through.
  4. Chill - Refrigerate left over foods promptly after serving. Keep cold foods cold and refrigerate hot foods after serving.

Visit for more information. This Website is from the Partnership for Food Safety Education is part of a national campaign to fight bacteria.