Get kids cooking to encourage healthy eating

Kids who cook and assist with meal preparation eat healthier foods. Start young. Preschoolers love helping in the kitchen, and even infants and toddlers can get involved.

Girl peeling eggs

2-year-olds can:

  • Clean vegetables and fruits
  • Wash and rip lettuce and other greens
  • Tear bread into smaller pieces
  • Deliver shatterproof tableware to the table

3-year-olds can:

  • Spread butters, jams, etc.
  • Pour liquids into batter (if you measure first)
  • Mix batter, dips, or other dry and wet ingredients together
  • Hollow out vegetable seeds or pits
  • Knead dough
  • Layer fruit and yogurt in parfaits
  • Place things in the trash, either after cooking or after the meal

4- and 5-year-olds can:

  • Peel certain vegetables and fruits, like onions or bananas
  • Mash soft fruits and vegetables
  • Cut soft fruits or vegetables with a plastic knife
  • Squeeze oranges, lemons, and limes to make juices, dressings, marinades, etc.
  • Crack open, break, and pour eggs
  • Beat eggs with an egg beater
  • Measure dry ingredients
  • Wipe up the cooking area
  • Set the table
  • Clear the table after a meal and bring dishes to sink or dishwasher
Boy and dad in kitchen cleaning carrots


Help infants get familiar with the kitchen and food preparations by keeping them nearby while you cook. They can play with shatterproof bowls and utensils such as spoons and spatulas. Talk about what you are doing as you work so that they learn new vocabulary. Encourage them to smell and taste foods whenever appropriate.  

Try this

Children are more likely to try foods that they have helped prepare. Here are a few simple activities to help you get started:

Layered Yogurt and Fruit Parfaits

Children can create their own parfaits by layering the yogurt and fruit. 

Garden “Roll-Ups”

Use lettuce or tortillas as your wrap. Children can add their choice of vegetables, sauces, herbs, etc. 

Veggies and Fruit with Dips or Sauces

Allow children to cut fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Provide ingredients and let them mix their own dips. 

Fruit and Veggie Insects

Make apple lady bugs by cutting a red apple in half, then sticking raisin “spots” on it using cream cheese as the “glue.” Make cucumber caterpillars by slicing a cucumber in half lengthwise, then decorate with finely chopped vegetables, again using dip or cream cheese as “glue.” 

Healthy zucchini boats

Cucumber, Bell Pepper, or Summer Squash “Boats”

Show children how to hollow out the vegetable. Then fill it with cream cheese, herbs, and/or other vegetables. Or fill the hollowed vegetables with rice, beans, cheese, or other ingredients and bake at 375 degrees for 10-15 minutes or until tender. 

Adapted from Let’s Go!