By Jen Hartman, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Are your kids begging to help in the kitchen? Do you have a toddler hugging your leg as you're trying to get dinner in the oven?

It's tempting to shoo the kids away while you are preparing meals, but one of the best ways to teach healthy habits is by letting our kids help in the kitchen. Not convinced?

A few studies over the last several years have looked at the correlation between kids who cook and healthy eating habits. They show that kids who participate in grocery shopping, preparing meals, and cooking with mom or dad tend to make healthier food choices.

So, instead of keeping the kids out of the kitchen this week, pass over a spoon and a mixing bowl and assign a few tasks. I've listed some ideas, followed by family-friendly recipes below. You might all enjoy the extra help and quality time spent together.

Tips and ideas for what your child can help with in the kitchen

Ages 2-3
  • Wash fruits and veggies
  • Tear lettuce
  • Mix and stir ingredients in a mixing bowl
  • Pour with assistance
  • Assemble ingredients and kitchen supplies
Ages 4-6
  • Count and do simple measurements
  • Use kitchen scissors to cut herbs
  • Use a butter knife to cut produce
  • Mix, Pour, Stir
  • Crack eggs
Ages 7-12
  • Help with meal planning/choose recipes
  • Create their own recipes
  • Read and follow recipes
  • Cut with a small, sharper knife (supervised)
  • Use zester, graters, and peelers (supervised)
  • Work with a heated source (with instructions)
  • Help wash dishes

7 recipes to make with your kids

    Photo courtesy of Gimme Some Oven
    1. No-bake Energy Bites from Gimme Some Oven

    This no-bake recipe is great for kids of all ages. They can help measure, mix ingredients, and roll into balls. This recipe is great because it's adaptable to your family's preferences. You can swap out the peanut butter with almond butter and use whatever mix-ins you prefer! Serve two of these energy bites with a glass of milk and bowl of fruit for a balanced breakfast.

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    Photo courtesy of Jeanette's Healthy Living
    2. Mexican Corn Quinoa Salad by Jeanette's Healthy Living

    Kids can help measure quinoa for cooking. They can also help rinse black beans and corn. They can cut fresh cilantro with kitchen scissors, prepare dressing, and mix cooked quinoa with black beans, corn, and dressing. Try serving this with the additional veggies (cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, avocado, etc.) on the side so kids can build their own bowls to their liking.

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    Photo courtesy of Skinny Taste
    3. Stuffed Lasagna from Skinny Taste

    Older kids can help grate zucchini and parmesan cheese. Younger kids can mix the cheese and zucchini together and help roll the noodles. This recipe is a delicious, healthy, and fun meal to prepare as a family. Plus, sneaking the zucchini into the noodles is a great way to mask the flavor for pickier eaters.

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    Photo courtesy of The Wholesome Dish
    4. To-go Baked Oatmeal from The Wholesome Dish

    Another breakfast winner! Kids of all ages can help with these oatmeal cups. They can measure, pour, and stir ingredients together, and they get to choose their own toppings for each individual cup. It's an adaptable, healthy, yummy breakfast.

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    Photo courtesy of Dessert Now, Dinner Later
    5. Breakfast Egg Cups from Dessert Now, Dinner Later

    What kid doesn’t love cracking eggs!? This is one of my favorite recipes to prepare with our kids. They can crack eggs, stir them up, and mix in their favorite toppings. You can include bell peppers, spinach, ham, cheese, turkey sausage, tomatoes, green onions—whatever you think they will gobble up. It’s totally adaptable and easy to prep ahead of time for breakfast on-the-go. We also serve these at dinner with fresh fruit and a green salad.

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    Photo courtesy of Super Healthy Kids
    6. Rainbow Wraps from Super Healthy Kids

    Your kids will love putting these colorful wraps together. They can help wash the veggies, mix the cheese and chives together, and add their favorite toppings. Roll and slice with a butter knife for little pinwheels.

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    Photo courtesy of The Kitchn
    7. Peanut Butter and Granola Wraps from The Kitchn

    Let’s end with another fun wrap recipe. Most kids can help slice bananas and assemble. Add extra fruit (strawberries, blueberries, apples) to your kids' liking, and feel free to substitute almond butter or sunflower butter. Roll and slice!

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