Originally Sent: 9/19/2013

HSLDA's Toddlers to Tweens Newsletter

September 19, 2013


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Kids in the Kitchen

Learn more.Learn more.
Vicki Bentley helps HSLDA members homeschool children in preschool through 8th grade. She and her husband homeschooled 17 children and led a support group of over 250 families. Read more >>

In a recent post, my friend Sue Gregg reminded parents that:

“Children want to start helping in the kitchen at a very young age. So many mothers pass up this opportunity for the sake of time (‘I can do it faster myself’). What shortsightedness! Take the time to teach your children what they can and want to learn at each age. This will pay great time dividends for you as they gain these skills and can perform them independently. Don’t be a supermom who does it all; be a smart mom who liberally engages the assistance of well-trained children. They will ‘rise up and call you blessed.’ And you will be!”

In our own family’s chore rotation, one child was designated as assistant cook for two months at a time, shadowing me in the kitchen to (a) learn cooking skills and (b) spend some one-on-one time with mom. I know it can be difficult to get dinner on the table with little helpers at every meal, but we can be purposeful to include them as little apprentices periodically, even if not three times a day.

What Can They Do?

Sue stresses that what your 4- or 5-year-old can do will depend on what he learned at ages 2 and 3; skills build on previous experience, so get them started early. But here’s a general list she provides to give us an idea of realistic, age-appropriate, developmentally appropriate expectations:

Your toddler can mix.Your toddler can mix. Photo by Rebekah McBride
Two-year-olds can mix with a spoon.

Two-year-olds can:

  • Experience taste, texture, and shape differences in foods while sitting at the table.
  • Dip foods such as finger vegetables into a dip, or fish or chicken pieces into a crumb mixture.
  • Put selected utensils and bowls in sink of soapy water.
  • Scrub fresh vegetables with a vegetable brush (for example, potatoes).
  • Tear, snap, or break fresh vegetables (such as green beans).
  • Mix items such as salads or gelatin with a spoon.
  • Cut with a table knife, such as slicing a banana.
  • Spread with a table knife, such as peanut butter on crackers.
  • Roll foods with both hands, such as meat balls.
  • Peel with fingers (for example, bananas or hard-cooked eggs).
  • Crack raw eggs (be prepared to pick out a bit of shell!).

Three-year-olds can:

  • Do all of the above.
  • Juice with a non-electric citrus juicer.
  • Beat with an egg beater.
  • Put napkins or single items on the table.
  • Help clear the table.
  • Wipe off the table (don’t require perfection!).
  • Make table centerpieces (in his/her own way).
  • Learn the names of different fruits and vegetables.
Older children can be a great help in the kitchen.Older children can be a great help in the kitchen. Photo by Rebekah McBride
Older children can be a great help in the kitchen.

Four- and five-year-olds can:

  • Do all of the above.
  • Grate or shred with a hand grater.
  • Peel with a vegetable peeler.
  • Slice with sharp knives (under close supervision).
  • Help with most recipes and food preparation.
  • Fill a lunch bag with pre-made sandwiches and other items.
  • Set the table by himself.
  • Wash and rinse unbreakable dishes and load the dishwasher.
  • Identify various grains, beans, and breads.
  • Learn that a food cooked or raw is the same food in a different form.

(Lists excerpted from Sue Gregg’s cookbook, Lunches & Snacks with Lessons for Children, pages 24-25; used with permission.)

Older elementary children can learn basic cooking skills using most basic recipes. My own children learned from our classic Betty Crocker and Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks, as well as our Sue Gregg cookbook series (and more Hershey cookbooks than I should admit!). Later, they relied upon a compilation of our family’s favorite recipe adaptations in Everyday Cooking, which includes the “Basic Cooking Skills Checklist” that earned them their home economics credit and provided the foundation for their culinary experience.

Family Meal Preparation Builds More Than Strong Bodies

Kitchen meal preparation time can be family time, building stronger relationships and stronger independent living skills—while preparing meals to build stronger bodies.

Bon appetit!

Vicki Bentley
HSLDA Toddlers to Tweens consultant

Resources for Kids in the Kitchen

Lunches and Snacks, with Lessons for Children by Sue Gregg

Family Favorites from the Homeschool Kitchen compiled by HSLDA/The Homeschool Foundation

Everyday Cooking by Vicki Bentley

Eating Better cookbook series from Sue Gregg (More than a cookbook series—this is a cooking and nutrition curriculum in spiral binding!)

Streamlining Mealtime for the Homeschool Family by Sarah Avila, Holy Spirit-Led Homeschooling

Getting Dinner on the Table … The SAME Day You Homeschool by Vicki Bentley (e-book)

Eat Your Way Across the U.S.A. by Loree Pettit

“Baking with Whole Grains” (comprehensive course for high school) by Sue Gregg

Eat Your Way Around the World by Jamie Aramini

Cooking with Kids Pinterest page

Cooking with Kids from PBS Kids

Raddish Kids - a cooking club for kids! They learn basic skills, help prepare several themed dishes from each kit. Includes tool-of-the-month instruction card, recipes, and badge for mastering the month’s skill (you provide the food). May be used for multiple children (add-ons available).

"Homeschooling Toddlers to Tweens" is a newsletter of the Home School Legal Defense Association. All rights reserved. For more information on Homeschooling Toddlers to Tweens or the Home School Legal Defense Association please contact us at:

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