Kids Cooking Dinner

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Does your child ever make dinner for your family?

May 2007

Does your child ever make dinner for your family? At what age do you recommend they start? And what types of food can they prepare? I have a 6 year old who loves cooking class at school (where he cuts things with a knife, uses a stove, etc.)- but I've never had him cook, cut or prepare anything at home. I have a vision of designating one night a week as ''Kids Cook Night'' (none to little grown-up involvement) but I'm not sure he's old enough. We don't have a microwave which might complicate things. I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried this. Kids cookbook recommendations would also be helpful. Thank you. anon

Why the all or nothing approach? I'd be leary about turning the kitchen over completely when he has never even helped cook at home.

How about having your son help you cook dinner at home. That way you can get a sense of what he can do, and teach him a few new things. Do some easy things together and then over time he can probably do more and more of it himself.

I love cooking with my kids - it's one of the special things we do together and it makes meal times more of an activity and less of a chore. It is one of the special memories I have of my Dad growing up - always hanging out in the kitchen and helping.

Don't have a kids cookbook in mind, but you son can probably do simple meals - warming up soup (supervised) and making sandwiches. Or maybe putting all the toppings on a premade pizza crust and you put it in the oven. Cook with kids

My middle son (now 9) LOVES to cook and has since he was about 4. Rather than have him be in charge on his own for meals, what has worked for us is having him direct. He decides what we'll have and finds the recipes, we shop. Then one of us works as his sous chef as he tells us what to do and works alongside us. The other kids do the dishes. We've tried at times to do this once a week, but baseball/ soccer/swimming/homework/life get in the way. Now we do it when we're all at home and it sounds like fun.

We've had more problems getting our 11 year old, who'd rather not cook, and is perfectly happy telling us he'll make us Top Ramen, interested in preparing meals. Sometimes we'll do Iron Chef evenings with each kid trying out his recipe and the judges being very lenient (all efforts are commended with positive comments that apply to the individual chef...) It always ends up in a tie...

Good luck and happy eating, Anon, hoping my kids end up learning how to prepare meals as I'm married to a guy who likes to cook and I feel so lucky... anon

my kids are 11 and 16 and just recently started making dinner once/week each. I buy what they want but I set some guidelines--protein, 2 veg, carb. Usually they make the same thing each week which is fine. 11 yr old is great about it and very responsible 16 yr old flaky--often forgets or tries to weasel out of it I wish I had started earlier with this! good luck!

My six year old cooks almost independently using the crock-pot, microwave and Foreman grill. She can prep things for the stove top and oven, but I do most of the cooking work there. When my son was 12, I insisted I be home if he wanted to use the stove top, but he had independent use of the oven. Usual kid-cook menus are bean and cheese burritos, baked chicken, tuna melts, sauted vegetables, rice casserole, fruit salad, pasta salad. --mom of hungry kids

Six years old is definitely not old enough to make dinner for the family. Definitely. It's not safe, it's too stressful, and it can be a lot of pressure for them (if they mess up, everyone knows it). It is, however, a wonderful idea to have him work with you in the kitchen. It's just that, until at least ten, making dinner for the whole family is too much to handle. Involvement in the kitchen and mealtime is wonderful, though. Charles

That's terrific that your son is interested in cooking -- definitely something to be encouraged.

You might want to build on the lessons he's getting at school with some simple things from you, but more technique-oriented rather than preparing a whole dish or a whole meal, like how to tell when pasta is cooked enough. If you aren't that into cooking yourself, there are certain to be a number of classes for kids around the Bay area and he probably would enjoy the camraderie -- although the age minimum is going to vary.

As a longtime food writer, my advice for the best thing to incorporate into his enthusiasm is how to shop! Take him with you to the store and show him how to pick out a good tomato or bunch of bananas. At supermarkets where they have an actual person at the fish counter, ask for an explanation of how to pick out a piece of fish and what way woud be best to cook it, etc.

It's a fantastic opportunity to slip in little lessons about how to choose healthy foods and make other buying decisions.

My parents started teaching me how to cook at 6, like your son -- easy stuff like making macaroni salad or dipping chicken cutlets into flour, egg, salt -- and it was a lot of fun. With any luck, he'll be making dinner for you from time to time. Of course, you may be eating pancakes and cucumbers the first few times.... Better in the kitchen than in front of the TV

when my husband and his brother each reached the age of 12, my mother-in-law had them cook a meal one night a week. She said she didn't care if she had hamburgers every week, she just wanted them to know how to cook a meal on their own. My brother- in-law is now a superb chef and is about to own a restaurant; my husband is also a wonderful cook and really enjoys cooking and cooks up wonderful stuff. Worked for them! I say start having them help you when they are mature enough....have them cook on their own at 12! Anon