Get kids cooking these holidays

School holidays are here! If you’re at home over the holidays, it’s a perfect time to get the kids and grandkids involved the kitchen.

Mum, Dad and four kids, two sons and two daughters, in kitchen making pizza from scratch

Why teach kids to cook?

Learning how to cook is, without a doubt, one of the most important life skills you can learn. Getting kids involved in the kitchen helps them to learn about different ingredients, gain confidence and be more receptive to trying new foods and flavours 1,2,3. Learning to cook helps to boost self-esteem, independence and connectedness within families 4,5,6.

Parents, siblings, grandparents and whānau can all help teach kids to cook. Grandparents are particularly important as they have often learnt how to cook from scratch without relying on instant meals, takeaways, fancy equipment or ingredients. When given the opportunity, many grandparents will happily share their wisdom around growing their own vegetables, baking their own bread or cooking a family favourite.

grandparent's hands rolling dough with grandchild's hands inbetween

Cooking activities for kids

There are lots of simple cooking activities that kids of all ages can do over the school holidays. We’ve chosen four ideas to help them learn some basic skills while most importantly having fun.

You can start involving your kids from an early age. Start with basic tasks and as your child’s skills and confidence increase, progress to more complicated jobs. Try to be patient and encouraging, it’s likely there'll be a bit of mess along the way, so make sure your budding chefs know the importance of helping to clean up too! 

Preparing vegetables

Washing, chopping, grating, mashing and peeling vegetables help kids learn how to prepare a meal from scratch. Simple recipes like these vegetable kebabs are great for practicing these skills.

Younger children can help wash vegetables, mash potatoes, whisk dressings and put salad greens on a serving plate.

Older school-aged children can help with more technical tasks, such as practicing safe knife skills, grating and peeling.

Little girl washing fruit at sink

Getting kids involved in growing vegetables helps them to see the whole process and be able to pick ingredients from the garden before cooking. Herbs, salad greens and tomatoes all grow well in pots or crates and are a great option when outdoor space is limited. A trip to the local market to buy fresh ingredients can also be a lot of fun!

Little boy watering plants in garden

Cooking with eggs

Eggs are a tasty, affordable and nutritious food that kids can easily learn to cook for any meal of the day. Younger children can help count the number of eggs needed for a recipe, sprinkle herbs or whisk eggs.

Older kids can help to make a simple breakfast of scrambled, poached or boiled eggs, and work towards more complicated recipes like an egg and vegetable burrito.

Little girl cracking egg into bowl

Takeaway makeovers

Kids love getting creative in the kitchen and making their own pizzas, pita pockets, wraps and burgers. These dishes are not only fun and can involve the whole family, but they also teach kids a variety of cooking skills, including measuring, grating, cutting, baking and frying.

Younger kids can help form burger patties, roll pizza dough and choose vegetable toppings. Older kids can help chop vegetables, and practice using the oven or frying pan.

Kids love choice, so let them choose from a selection of healthy ingredients to make the activity fun and keep them interested.

Young girl making pizza in kitchen

Simple snacks

For snacks, kids will enjoy making:

The school holidays are a great time to teach kids how to make their own healthy snacks. When they go back to school they can help prepare their own lunchbox or afterschool snacks.

More tips to get kids involved in meal preparation

  • Get kids to help with setting the table, serving and cleaning up afterwards.
  • Let them make decisions, e.g. choose ingredients and recipes together.
  • Delegate tasks – this can speed up the process and gives kids a sense of ownership.
  • Let them be creative, e.g. designing a weekly family menu or adding vegetables to their favourite meals.

Where can I find more recipes for kids?

The Heart Foundation has plenty of healthy recipes for kids. They are easy to follow and visually appealing to help kids get excited about cooking.  

You can find more recipes and tools to get your kids cooking here:

Take a look at our healthy recipes
Jeanette Rapson, NZRD

Jeanette Rapson, NZRD

Cooking Curriculum Project Coordinator

I am currently completing my PhD research at Massey University on vegetables as first foods for babies.

References

1. Utter J, Denny S, Lucassen M & Dyson B. Who is teaching the kids to cook? Results from a nationally representative survey of secondary school students in New Zealand. International journal of adolescent medicine and health. 2016.

2. DeCosta P, Moller P, Frost M B & Olsen A. Changing children's eating behaviour-A review of experimental research. Appetite. 2017; 113, 327-357.

3. Hersch D, Perdue L, Ambroz T et al. The Impact of Cooking Classes on Food-Related Preferences, Attitudes, and Behaviors of School-Aged Children: A Systematic Review of the Evidence, 2003-2014. Preventing Chronic Disease. 2014; 11:E193.

4. Caraher M, Baker H, Burns M. Children’s views of cooking and food preparation. Br J Nutr 2004;106:255–73.

5. Utter J, Denny S, Lucassen M, Dyson B. Cooking and the health and wellbeing of adolescents. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2016;48:35–41.

6. Utter J, Denny S, Robinson E, Fleming T, Ameratunga S, et al. Family meals and the well-being of adolescents. J Paediatr Child Health 2013;49:906–11.