Kids in the Kitchen: When Everyone Wants to Help {Eat Well, Spend Less}

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My girls are great at helping. Anytime I’m in the kitchen, you can bet at least one is asking to help me cook, bake, clean, whatever. If they think there’s action of any kind going on, they feel the need to be in the middle of it.

And I can’t just have one helper. No, that would be too easy. It’s like ants at a picnic; one smells food and the whole army comes for dinner.

Yeah, silly analogy, I know. But at times, it really is like a herd of cattle in my kitchen!

So how do you handle all of the “help,” keep your sanity, and still get done whatever it is that needs to get done?

Get them on your level

I keep a few small step stools in the kitchen so the girls can easily reach the counter when they help me. We also have bar stools, but I don’t always prepare my food there, so they need to have access to what we are making. Get your children on your level to make it easier on you and them.

Give everyone a job

This is probably a really obvious one, but almost every time, I have to remind the girls that they each have a special job. Sometimes it is simply one setting the napkins, one setting the silverware, and the other making drinks for supper. Other times, it is taking turns with ingredients.

Be sure the job is on your child’s skill level. For example, I will let my 8-year-old crack an egg because I know she can do it properly. My 3-year-old on the other hand, would prefer to slam the egg onto the counter or into the bowl, not really understanding that the shell doesn’t taste so good. I also tend to do most of the measuring (since precise measuring is super important!) and let them do the pouring and adding to the bowl.

Give your kiddos directions… specific directions and let them have at it. No, my table isn’t set perfectly, but it is set, and that’s all that matters in this house!

Don’t expect perfection

This is hard for me, as I am a perfectionist, and I love for things to be done quickly, efficiently, and properly. Letting kids in your kitchen is a learning time for all. Remember they don’t come into this with your experience. I have to remind myself of that at times. We’ve had our share of spilled milk (and anything else you can imagine), and while it can be hard to not get really upset, the best thing to do is just clean it up and move on.

Be encouraging

I’ve noticed that when I’m encouraging – as opposed to exasperated – we all enjoy it more and the girls actually learn and act better. After all, the point of having your kiddos help you is for them to learn and to spend time together!

My Reese (age 6) is quite proficient at using my KitchenAid mixer, but only because I let her.  It can be hard at times, but don’t stifle your children when they want to learn something new. Show them the proper way to handle the equipment, help them out until they get the hang of it, and then monitor them until they can handle it on their own. Reese knows what speeds are appropriate and which ones will make flour fly all over us, and she takes pride in being my “mixer”.

It’s okay to say, “No.”

There are some things I’m just not ready for my girls to do yet. Abby Grace begs to put baked goods into the oven. Right now, I am not comfortable with that, because she could too easily be hurt. I let her know why I’m saying no, and that the “no” isn’t forever. For some, the age of 8 might not be too young, and that’s fine. Do what works for your family.

More than anything, let your children know you enjoy having them help you. Even though you don’t move near as quickly, and the finished product might not be as pretty, creating something together is the most important aspect of all.

Apparently I don’t take many pictures of them helping me in the kitchen, because these were all I could find; and they are from 2010!

This month, the Eat Well, Spend Less ladies are talking Kids in the Kitchen. Read more great tips, ideas, and recipes here:

Linked to: Works for me Wednesday

Written by: Amy Norton
Amy is a youth pastor’s wife and homeschooling mom to three girls, ages 8, 6, and 3, and has a baby boy on the way. When she’s not writing at Kingdom First Mom, you can find her cooking, getting crunchier by the day, and trying to stay on top of the laundry. She enjoys writing about her homelife adventures at Amy Loves It.


  1. Rebecca L. says

    Does Alyssa still write for KFM? Everything I get via email is either very, very generic such as the latest coupons out or else it’s just small verses or something that amounts to a couple sentences. Sometimes it’s old posts. I haven’t seen anything new or personal in at least a year, unless it’s from Amy. (Actually, Amy seems to be entirely running the site now). I thought Alyssa had alluded to some problems a long time ago, maybe depression or something? I am not being nosy, I am just concerned and wish the column was personal and like it used to be. Thanks for anyone taking the time to read it.

  2. says

    Great tips, Amy! I think it’s also important to mention that you need to do what’s right for your kid, not just your family. Each child shows different levels of maturity at different ages, so what might be the right time for one, perhaps won’t be for the next child.

  3. says

    Helpful notes! I have a 4 yr and almost 3 yr old and I need to loosen the reigns a bit so that they can help more. My oldest would be the perfect “mixer helper,” so I need to cultivate their talents a bit more in the kitchen. I think I also need to set time aside when we’re not in a rush, just to cook/bake for fun and let the messes happen!
    Tiffany @ DontWastetheCrumbs´s last blog post ..June 1 {Joyful June}

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