by Debra Caffrey

Your Kitchen is the Most Important Classroom! 

When my son turned 10, I knew it was time for him to take on more serious responsibilities around the house. Though he doesn’t love the process, he’s been doing his laundry for some time and it made me realize there are a lot of other life skills he should start on sooner than later.

I realized that, though my son occasionally helps me crack an egg or makes a peanut butter sandwich, there is still much he doesn’t know about preparing a meal or how to navigate around the kitchen.

Now approaching 12, there are plenty of things he can learn about cooking and meal prep that aren’t overwhelming. So, as a family, we decided that our son should prepare dinner twice a month, even if it’s just a sandwich or soup. He can take baby steps towards becoming a young man that knows how to cook, feed himself and others, and not hurt himself in the process!

This was quite a learning curve for me. I thought he’d know a lot more than he did! We started from scratch and, over time, he’s learned to be much more independent (albeit supervised at times) about preparing food, knowing how appliances work, using a knife, plating food and serving family members.

Whether you could use some extra help, or if you’re just looking to teach responsibility and self-efficiency, the kitchen can be a home classroom. Children of all ages can hone important skills such as math, reading, science, chemistry, self-confidence, fine motor skills, nutrition, time management and even gratitude. By having kids help you cook and become more at ease in the kitchen on their own, you are raising a future independent and self-sufficient adult who will not need to rely on expensive and unhealthy take out. Not sure what kitchen skills are appropriate? Here’s a handy list of kitchen skills you can teach based on age. And don’t forget to have fun in the process!

Ages 3-5:

  • wash fruits and vegetables
  • help set the table
  • help clear the table
  • help knead and roll doughs
  • stir batters
  • help measure wet and dry ingredients
  • use cookie cutters
  • help mash ingredients (i.e. bananas for baking)

Ages 6-8:

  • crack eggs
  • read recipe steps
  • chop softer produce with kid-safe knife
  • scrape dirty dishes and rinse them off
  • use a hand-held mixer to blend batters
  • frost cakes and cookies
  • learn how to use a box grater and can opener (supervised)
  • season with salt, pepper, and other dry herbs

Ages 9-12:

  • flip pancakes and other griddle cooked foods
  • toast bread and assemble sandwiches
  • load and unload dishwasher
  • use a vegetable peeler
  • cook basic box macaroni and cheese and canned soups
  • take items in and out of the oven (supervised)
  • use a sharp knife on certain items (supervised)
  • boil pasta; prepare with basic oils and sauces

Ages 13-16:

  • scramble eggs
  • bake basic items independently such as muffins and brownies
  • hand wash dishes and scrub hard-to-clean ones
  • use basic appliances such as blenders and waffle makers
  • cook dinner for the family a couple times a month or once a week
  • handle raw meats safely; know proper sanitation of such ingredients
  • develop more sophisticated knife skills to chop, mince, and slice
  • learn how to use an outdoor grill
  • assist with basic shopping and grocery budget issues as delegated