Basic Cooking Skills for Kids at Every Age

From preschool to high school, check out our age-by-age guide of basic cooking tasks your child can do.

Sure, your kitchen is a place to make and eat meals with your family – but it can also be a classroom for your kids. Even young kids can begin to help you put together simple recipes. As you get your kids more involved in the kitchen they can perform more tasks.

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Keep in mind that each child is different. Some will have more interest and abilities in developing kitchen skills compared to others. Use the kitchen skills below as a general guide for the activities your child can be working on. Build on one skill set and then add more.

Along with this list of cooking skills for kids, there are links to recipes perfect for their age group and ability.

Preschoolers (ages 3-5) – little sous chefs

These youngsters will need plenty of guidance and supervision learning new kitchen skills. Guiding them through simple tasks will give them a solid foundation toward doing more as they get older.

  • Pouring ingredients from cans
  • Making simple sandwiches and wraps
  • Rolling cookie dough into balls
  • Stirring batter
  • Measuring out ingredients for recipes
  • Cleaning fruits and vegetables
  • Preparing simple salads
  • Setting the table
  • Putting away utensils from the dishwasher
  • Opening up packages

Recipes to try:

Trail mix recipe ideas for travel snacks

Sack lunch recipes

Grade schoolers (ages 6-8) – young chef

Your kids can learn their ABCs while sounding out ingredients and directions in cookbooks. Take time to instruct your child on safety in the kitchen. Plan on supervising them as they tackle new-to-them kitchen skills.

  • Stirring boxed mixes like cakes, brownies, and mac ‘n’ cheese
  • Using the microwave for simple tasks
  • Rolling out bread and cookie dough
  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • Browning ground beef in a pan
  • Cutting up soft foods with a kitchen knife
  • Boiling pasta (but not straining it)
  • Getting out recipe ingredients from the pantry and refrigerator
  • Greasing pans

Recipes to try:

Family-friendly afterschool snacks

Pigs-in-a-blanket recipes

Middle schoolers (ages 9-12) – chef-in-training

Tweens can start preparing recipes on their own with a parent or adult on hand for any questions. Begin preparing more complex meals with them so you can show them how to tell when a cake is done, chicken is fully cooked and more.

  • Draining pasta
  • Using the oven
  • Grilled cheese sandwiches
  • Quesadillas
  • Following basic recipes
  • Making quick bread recipes
  • Using some kitchen appliances, after an adult sets them up
  • Sautéing meat and/or vegetables
  • Shredding cheese using a box grater
  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher
  • Making scrambled eggs
  • Slicing soft vegetables and meats (tomatoes, chicken, zucchini)

Recipes to try:

Quesadilla recipes

Truffle recipes

Teenagers (ages 13-18) – assistant chefs

It’s time to take off the cooking training wheels! Teens should be able to do most kitchen tasks on their own, although you may still get a question or two. Try to find ways for your teen to do more in the kitchen – maybe he or she can make the family dinner once a week.

  • Chopping ingredients and using various knives
  • Making bread recipes using yeast
  • Using kitchen appliances, including food processors and blenders
  • Cooking with a wok
  • Frying foods like chicken tenders, French fries and tater tots
  • Cutting raw meat
  • Cleaning up all plates, knives and appliances
  • Slicing all vegetables and meats
  • Loading and unloading the dishwasher

Recipes to try:

15-minute meals

Microwave meals

For even more tips on basic cooking skills kids can do in the kitchen, see Kraft’s Kids in the Kitchen Guide and Lifehacker’s Kitchen Skills by Age Infographic.

This post was originally published in 2015 and has been updated for 2017.

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Basic Cooking Skills for Kids at Every Age
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