The importance of involving kids in the kitchen

I confess; when I get home after school pick-up, work or dealing with life in general, and I have to think about getting dinner on the table - the last thing - the absolute furthest thing from my mind is having the twinnies in the kitchen helping me. This absolutely does not evoke feelings of calm and happiness for me - I just. want. to. get. it. done.

WORDS: Larissa Sewell, Feast with Larissa

However, I’ve been thinking about my roots in food, cooking and entertaining a lot recently and it’s lead to contemplating the importance of intentionally involving kids in our home kitchen. It’s more than just preparing meals; it creates bonds, core memories, and enhances their development, fostering creativity and essential life skills, especially in the early years.

My earliest kitchen memories would be from when I was around 3 years old; I have such vivid memories of my babushka and dedushka’s house, their garden. Together, we sowed cucumber seeds that had been saved in little envelopes from the previous season, I remember the thrill of navigating through their suburban-jungle of a yard, completely overrun by cucumber and watermelon vines, crawling and sprawling the base of every fruit tree, all summer long.

I learned to carefully pick cucumbers, avoiding the tiny black prickles; I’d wash them carefully under the garden hose; we’d halve the cucumbers lengthways, sprinkling them generously with sea salt. The memory – and the taste of those cucumbers, still warm from the hot sun, is etched in my mind, to this day.

The glut of cucumbers that didn’t get eaten right off the vine – Babushka salted and pickled in (what felt like) giant white buckets with cups full of salt, bunches of fresh dill, garlic and bay leaves that we picked straight from her tree.

Giant Russian sunflowers brightly lined the fence – and when the flower heads became so big and swollen with black seeds – we’d pick them, dry them and sit on the porch, shucking away at seeds and chatting the afternoon away.

My Dedushka’s playful notion that mint from the garden was ‘chewing gum’ introduced me to the freshness of herbs. Each morning, he and I wandered off to the chicken coop for fresh, still-warm eggs, a ritual that, while shuddering at the memory, involved poking a hole in each end and literally sucking out the raw egg (I didn’t die…).

From my first taste of fresh horseradish to the monumental task of processing countless apricots into the most incredible sundried fruit leather; my food story unfolded. Sitting around my babushka’s giant kitchen table for days on end folding dumplings ‘however many you make, is how many you’ll eat’ – she always told us. Sometimes; particularly while we were young, our pelmeni folding was questionable – and I now realise my babushka had the patience of a saint – and I feel like the life lesson might have just been ‘present, over perfect’.

I am not here to tell you that this is my life now – it somehow feels like this cottage-meets-trad-core-ish lifestyle is somehow unachievable in this hustle and bustle that is modern life. But I don’t think that these formative food experiences and memories need to be left behind – heck – I think they’re more important than ever.

Here are some simple ways that you can involve your littles in the kitchen; creating those core memories and life skills (hopefully, with your sanity intact):

For 3-4 year olds:

Involving young children in these kitchen activities can help promote hand-eye coordination, sensory exploration, and a sense of independence. It also provides opportunities for learning basic concepts like shapes, textures and basic hygiene practices. Additionally, it helps to foster a positive attitude towards food and family involvement. Of course, always ensure close supervision for safety.

  • Help collect ingredients or kitchen utensils
  • Explore new ingredients and discuss their colour, origins and tastes
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Stir, pour, and mix room temperature foods with a spoon
  • Safely slice or saw soft foods with a toddler-friendly knife (I love Kiddicutter for this).
  • Learn to crack an egg into a bowl


For 5-7 year olds:

This is my favorite age for introducing kids into the kitchen – involving this age group in the kitchen can enhance fine motor skills, boost confidence, promote a sense of responsibility, and is a fun way to learn math and science concepts through measuring and observing changes during cooking. It helps to foster a positive attitude towards food and encourages healthy eating habits.

  • Weigh and measure dry ingredients with scales or measuring cups
  • Peel vegetables and practice basic cutting with a kid-friendly knife (e.g., Le Petit Chef range from Opinel)
  • Roll with a rolling pin, cutting dough shapes
  • Help with setting the table
  • A fun activity that provides opportunity for learning is to shake cream in a jar until it becomes butter 


For 8-11 year olds:

Involving this age group in the kitchen promotes reading and math skills, enhances creativity, boosts confidence, and reinforces responsibility. It also teaches them about nutrition basics, kitchen safety, and teamwork. Additionally, it provides a foundation for developing the life-skill of cooking and encourages a healthy relationship with food.

  • Grate and peel ingredients with a peeler or box grater
  • Use a real knife with supervision
  • Follow a basic step-by-step recipe, like making pancakes or scrambled eggs, with supervision
  • Provide input in meal planning – a good idea is to get your tween to choose and make an accompaniment to dinner – perhaps a delicious, crunchy side salad – or a fruit parfait for dessert


For Teens:

getting teens involved in the kitchen helps foster independence, enhances culinary skills, and instills a deeper understanding of nutrition and balanced meals. It encourages responsibility, time management, and creativity in the kitchen whilst helping them develop a lifelong appreciation for cooking and the importance of making healthy food choices.

Working alongside your teen in the kitchen is a great opportunity to touch base, chat and keep ‘your finger on the pulse’.

  • Use kitchen equipment, including electrical appliances
  • Follow a step-by-step recipe and be allowed the creative freedom to ad-lib and make the recipe as they choose.
  • Safely operate the oven and cooktop
  • Learn to make simple meals that they can add to their repertoire- like a great pasta dish or a go-to comfort food or dessert
  • Encourage creativity by assigning them to make a side dish, dessert, or plan the family dinner – it’s so empowering to be trusted to make these decisions at home


I really do hope that these little ideas help you to try and embrace these moments in the kitchen, fostering a love for food, family, and lifelong connection – it’s absolutely worth it!

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