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Tips for Teaching Kids to Cook at All Ages: Preparing the Table



Now that we’ve talked about theimportance of teaching kids to cook for their future, let’s get down to business with some practical tips about teaching kids to help in the kitchen!

Any engagement with food is a step on the way to kids being independent in cooking. It all counts!

Plus, if you teach kids to wash and set the table from an early age, dinnertime feels more like family time even in the preparation.

Here is a mini lesson you can teach in your family from ages 2-12, broken out by age level.


Preschool: Careful Carrying

Supplies Needed:

· Real (non-plastic) small plates, glasses and bowls. Saucers work great if you don’t have little plates.

· One piece of food – something they want to eat would be perfect.


1. Talk to your 2-5-year-old about what happens if a real dish drops. (It breaks!)

2. Demonstrate how you carefully carry something:

a. You use two hands.

b. You put your THUMBS on top of the plate (this is the magic sauce!).

c. You look at the dish to make sure it stays flat.

d. You walk, not run.

e. You have a place to set the dish when you get to the table.

3. Show them with commentary once or twice…then allow them to try a dish with nothing on it. Guide with your hand if you’re not sure they’re old enough for the skill and might drop it. (You can always switch to plastic if you are so nervous it’s ruining the activity!)

4. After the child practices with each item, fill the glass halfway with water and place the food item on the plate for them to try again. (A strawberry is a fun challenge for an old-enough child!)

5. Now for the good part – tell your child that you can now expect them to help carry their dishes from the table to the kitchen after a meal. And follow through!

Here’s a little peek from our lesson on this from the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse. But you can demonstrate for your child too! Just remember “thumbs on top.” That makes all the difference in the world.

Get a free sample!

We’re offering our mini eBook 10 Snacks Your Preschooler Can Make Today to all parents to help you see the potential in your littlest ones!

Grab it now! 


If your little one is already adept at this skill, they might be ready to learn to set the table, unload the dishwasher or load the dishwasher.

Remember: just take one step. Any step!

Early Elementary: Setting the Table

Supplies Needed:

· Plates

· Utensils

· Glasses

· Napkins


1. Demonstrate where all the pieces go to set the table:

a. Plate in the middle

b. Napkin and Fork on the left

c. Knife and Spoon on the right

d. Glass above the Knife

e. In the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, we demonstrate this in a video with lots of memory tools, like the fact that the knife is the pointy thing, and it points at the glass.

2. Ask the child to count the correct number of items for your family table in the kitchen and figure out how best to carry them to the table.

3. Be on hand to remind of which side utensils go on as they set the table.

4. Praise a job well done! And the good part – tell them that you’ll provide practice time daily for their new skill.

Don’t forget to snap pictures of the proud kiddos and enter into the big giveaway (see below)!


If your little one is already adept at this skill, they might be ready to learn to wash the table, run the dishwasher, or get beverages for siblings.

Upper Elementary: Clearing the Table and Putting Leftovers Away

Supplies Needed:

· A busy dinner table.


This one’s on you, parents.

Your style is what counts here. Just ponder the following before training your older kids:

1. Where should items from the table go when they are brought in? (We have a landing zone for salad supplies near the fridge, and then one person opens the fridge once and puts everything away.)

2. What do your kids need to know about storing leftovers? What containers should they use? Do they need to let things cool on the counter before putting in the refrigerator?

3. And an efficiency tip: If you pack school or work lunches, can anything from dinner be portioned into lunch containers right away? This saves massive time later!


If your big kids are already doing this skill, bravo! They might be ready to learn to wash or dry some dishes – traditionally taught in the opposite direction. Drying is easier and has less risk, and washing is harder with more steps and ways to do it wrong. Or see if they have a recipe they’ve always wanted to try to learn!


Katie Kimball teaches kids to cook all over the world through her online video cooking classes. She’s a busy mom of 4 who values real food and knowing when to apologize to her kids when she loses her temper. She’s known how to carry a plate well since Montessori when she was 4, where her teachers worried when she would color maps for hours on end.

Let’s have a little fun!

To motivate us parents and celebrate a month of welcoming our kids into the kitchen, Katie has put together 9 easy-to-make recipes that are available through your Plan to Eat account. Make any one of these recipes with your child, post it to our photo contest below, and you could win our $259 prize package!


Join us!

Let’s get our kids into the kitchen and teach the next generation to appreciate healthy food! And as always, if you have any questions, please email us at [email protected].


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