What age can children learn to cook?
Cooking can bring a lifetime of pleasure, and even very young children can contribute to family mealtimes. It is never too late to teach your child to cook, but you can start them from the age of 3.
Safety is always a consideration as kitchens have hot ovens and sharp knives, but use this as a learning opportunity. Discuss with your child why these are dangerous and why it is important to be careful. You know your child best, and if you think that an activity puts them in danger, then don’t do it. You can help reduce the risks by allowing your child to take their time. If they rush or get distracted, accidents are more likely to happen.
It does take patience to teach children to cook, and it’s a good idea to give yourself plenty of time so that you can enjoy the activity too. Cooking together at the weekend and during the holidays might be a better idea than doing it during the working week when time could be tight.
Children aged 3 and under.
Very young children can start by washing vegetables. This is an opportunity to teach them the name of vegetables and where they come from. Do they grow underground or above ground? Talk about the colour of the vegetables, and how they feel and smell.
At this age, children can sprinkle ingredients such as flour and icing sugar, although we apologise in advance for the mess. Please don’t be put off. It’s all part of their development and will get better – promise!
They can stir ingredients that are at room temperature. Don’t allow children this young to stir very hot ingredients for obvious reasons. In addition, they can spoon ingredients into a bowl to be weighed. This is another benefit of teaching children to cook – it’s a very practical application of maths.
Children aged 3 – 5
As well as the activities above, children are now able to cut soft ingredients such as butter or cheese using a strong plastic knife rather than a metal one. They can tear herbs and lettuce and they can sieve flour. They will also be able to knead dough, but this is quite a physical task so may well turn into a joint activity. Once the dough has been made, children will be able to use a rolling pin to flatten it out, shape it with their hands and cut it with plastic cutters.
At this age, children will be able to spread with a knife, so you could get them making sandwiches and spreading butter and fillings like soft cheese.
Children aged 5 – 7
By now, you might be able to introduce a small knife, kitchen scissors and graters into the mix. There is risk associated with all of them so as previously mentioned, if you are at all unsure about this – then don’t do it.
At Food Sorcery Cookery School in Didsbury, we run classes during the school holidays, and what we find is that there will always be one child who likes to test out the theory of how sharp the knives are. We also find that they only do this once because they learn their lesson quickly!
Children’s ability to weigh ingredients will be improving as they learn more about maths at school. Great news! They should now have the ability to make their first cake as they will be able to master beating and folding and they will be able to grease and line a cake tin.
Children aged 8 – 11
Now it starts to get really interesting as children will be able to follow simple recipes, open cans and use heat on a hob, oven and microwave. They may need some supervision as sometimes children get a little over confident which is when accidents can happen. However, give them a little space, time and support and their confidence will blossom. They will be creating simple family meals in no time!
From age 11 onwards, their abilities will continue to grow as they can apply all sorts of other skills that they will be acquiring such as listening, following instructions and telling the time as well as having improved dexterity.
It is never too late to start teaching a child how to cook, and hopefully they will enjoy the experience and it will build the foundations of a lifelong love affair with food.
If you would like to learn how to cook with your child, then try one of our ‘Big & Little Cooks’ classes. We’ve had children, parents and grandparents cooking together in our fun, friendly environment.
We also run classes in the school holidays – they are great fun and get children cooking for life. Kids Cookery Holiday Camps
For more details visit www.foodsorcery.co.uk.