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19 Ways to Get Kids to Help Out During Mealtime

child helping cook

It’s time to eat, and you’re looking for ways to get the kiddos involved. But what’s an appropriate mealtime task for a toddler? What can a preschooler or elementary school-aged child do? 

Assigning kids age-appropriate chores in the kitchen can teach them coordination, math skills, and science skills. Mealtime tasks can also boost independence, responsibility, and self-confidence. Plus, picky eaters may be more comfortable trying new foods if they’ve helped prepare them!

To help kids enjoy all these benefits, bring them into the kitchen and give them some of the tasks in our list below.

Ages 2 to 3

Toddlers want to be more independent — terrible twos, anyone? — and they’re also eager to explore the world around them. Give them simple and safe tasks so that they can feel included and helpful during mealtimes.

Let toddlers help with:

  • Setting out napkins or spoons on the table (nothing sharp or breakable)
  • Stirring sauce or batter
  • Picking fresh veggies, fruits, or herbs from your garden
  • Decorating cookies
  • Clearing the table after eating (again, nothing sharp or breakable)

Ages 3 to 5

Preschoolers are a little more coordinated and capable than they were as toddlers. They also want to feel needed and praised. Try these mealtime tasks for preschoolers.

Let preschoolers help with:

  • Gathering and setting out utensils and cups
  • Tearing lettuce or greens for salad
  • Rinsing produce
  • Using cookie cutters
  • Measuring dry ingredients

Ages 6 to 8

Young, elementary school-aged kids are even more independent at this stage. They’re quickly developing mental skills, and their physical abilities are improving too. The following mealtime chores are perfect for young kids.

Let young children help with:

  • Reading recipes
  • Rinsing and peeling veggies
  • Kneading dough
  • Putting together easy side dishes
  • Helping clean the dishes and kitchen after meals

Ages 9 to 11

Older kids learn more about responsibility, independence, and physical ability at this stage. When supervised, older children can start to learn even more cooking skills that they’ll use throughout their adult life. Help them improve their skills with some of these tasks.

Let older children help with:

  • Following an easy recipe on their own
  • Chopping veggies or meats
  • Boiling rice or pasta
  • Sauteing food in a pan

Follow A Perfect Fit for more tips   

Involving kids before, during, and after mealtime teaches them valuable skills — and it relieves some of the kitchen responsibilities on your plate, too! Learning how to cook, bake, set the table, and clean up creates a healthy, positive relationship with food. Kids learn to appreciate different kinds of food, as well as what makes a healthy and well-balanced diet. 

Want more child care tips? Follow A Perfect Fit’s blog! We discuss nanny-focused topics such as caring for yourself during COVID-19 and navigating cultural differences. Our blog also focuses on topics for parents like performance reviews and health insurance.

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