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Parent Guide: Cooking with under 5s

Child cooking with parent

Cooking is a fundamental life skill; everyone should know how to cook and it’s never too early to get started!

You probably learnt to cook by observing your family and helping out but as our lives become busier this isn’t as much the case anymore for our little ones.

So, to introduce cooking early on, nurseries have begun to cook with children and we’re encouraging you, the parents, to do the same when you have the time at home.

To help, we've written this all you need to know guide to cooking with under 5s!

Child cooking with parents

Why cooking?

There are more developmental benefits to cooking than you might think! Did you know that just one cooking activity can help develop all areas of the EYFS?! (click here to find out more)

And since children tend to enjoy it so much, they aren’t even aware that there’s learning taking place in the background! Let’s have a look at some examples:

Physical Skills

Your little one will practice hand-eye coordination, strengthening their grip and more. These are developed as they learn to hold kitchen tools like spoons, peelers and more.


Children will be able to count spoons, weigh ingredients, calculate how many portions they will make, etc.

Emotional development

Children will gain confidence as they help out with more ‘adult’ tasks. It’s also a great bonding opportunity.

Language and communication

Especially in the nursery, children will often discuss what they are seeing or doing, whether they’re mixing, watching dough rise or chopping carrots.

Cooking also gives children knowledge about food, where it comes from and what is healthy and unhealthy. Not only giving them a better understanding of the world around them but also helping them learn valuable life skills.

What’s cooking in nursery like?

The wonderful nursery practitioners at our or other nurseries first consider your little one’s age and skills before cooking or baking with them. They also ensure to cook in small groups to be more involved, making sure children are following instructions safely.

Teaching your little ones to use tools is important, so practitioners gradually introduce kitchen tools like peelers and knives, teaching the children how to use these properly and safely.

They will make a range of awesome snacks from cupcakes to banana bread to mini-pizzas and more!

Child cooking

Cooking at home

Finding the time to cook with your little one at home can be difficult but when you do have the time it’s an amazing opportunity to bond and learn!

To help you get cooking at home here are some handy tips:

  • Expect a mess

Making a mess = making memories! But it’s worth considering placing an old sheet or tablecloth on the floor as well as dressing yourself and your little one in something that you don’t mind getting ruined.

  • Discuss food hygiene

This involved tying back hair, washing hands, wiping surfaces, and not licking fingers where raw ingredients are used. This will set up realistic expectations and help your child learn more about the cooking process.

  • Have your little one do the bulk of the work

Get them to weigh up ingredients (whilst discussing where they come from). Teach them to chop and peel safely and have them mix batters– most things you do they can also have a go at.

  • Let your child explore

It’s more about the process than the final product. Allow your child to play with the ingredients where possible, sensory play will make things more fun and a good opportunity to discuss the different foods and kitchen tools.

  • It’s meant to be fun!

Does it matter if they end up playing with some water instead of washing a bowl? Nah! It’s all about bonding and having a good time rather than rushing to prepare a meal. Take your time together and allow yourselves to get distracted – times like this will make for the best memories.

Finally, here are some additional resources

CBeebies ‘I Can Cook’ – click here to check it out.

BBC GoodFood child-friendly collections:

Click here for baking recipes

Click here for cooking recipes

Click here for snack recipes


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