Cooking skills by age
No two children are the same. Some will learn to walk sooner than others, but may talk much later. What we can be pretty sure of is that most manage to walk and talk in the end! The same can be said of cooking skills. Given the opportunity, we believe all children can learn to cook, and that the skills they learn in the process will sustain them throughout their lives.
Below is a guide to the sorts of skills and activities you can expect by age, but this will vary and is something you should judge based on your unique understanding of your little cook. My 6 year old is great at measuring, mashing and sieving but still hasn’t quite mastered pouring ingredients into a bowl and not on me! The guide doesn’t repeat each skill in each age group – it only adds to those already listed.
- Washing fruit and vegetables – this is a great way of teaching them the names of vegetables and sparking an interest which will hopefully encourage them to try different foods
- Stirring ingredients
- Mashing with a fork or potato masher (so long as the food isn’t too hard)
- Sprinkling e.g. flour – but put a tray underneath to avoid too much mess
- Pouring ingredients into a mixing bowl
3 – 5 year olds
- Weighing – pouring or spooning ingredients into measuring cups
- Using measuring spoons
- Cutting soft ingredients e.g. butter or soft fruit using a strong plastic knife
- Mixing – using either a spoon or hands to mix ingredients together
- Tearing herbs and salad leaves
- Sieving – it’s best to balance the sieve over a bowl and tap it rather than shake it around!
- Rolling, shaping and cutting dough – choose plastic cutters and a small rolling pin
- Spreading – e.g. buttering bread and spreading icing
- Greasing and lining a cake tin or tray
- Helping to clear up – wipe surfaces, help load/unload the dishwasher etc.
5 – 7 year olds
- Cutting with scissors – smaller scissors or children’s scissors are preferable and can be used to cut herbs or parchment paper for lining a baking tray
- Grating – fingers can easily be grated so keep watch and make sure they don’t get too close to the end of whatever they’re grating
- Measuring with less supervision – as children learn to read and do basic maths, this is a great opportunity for them to do this with less supervision
- Beating and folding – show children how to beat cake mixture with a wooden spoon or fold in egg whites without knocking out too much air
- Peel fruits and vegetables or hard-boiled eggs – make sure the eggs aren’t too hot
- Setting the table – encourage this from a young age!
8 – 10 year olds
- Following a recipe unassisted
- Finding ingredients in the cupboards and fridge
- Slicing vegetables – though supervision for this is advised
- Whisking, using a balloon whisk or handheld mixer
- Using heat on a hob, oven and microwave
- Making salads
- Opening cans