The kitchen is probably the room in the house where we spend the most time, especially if we also use it as a dining room. Also, if we analyze it in detail, we will see that it is the ideal place to start fostering children’s autonomy , since it is here where much of practical life begins.
And it is that in the kitchen not only is the family menu prepared, but various domestic tasks are carried out such as setting and clearing the table, washing the dishes, placing the utensils in different cupboards or drawers, or sweeping the floor.
But for children to be able to collaborate proactively in the kitchen , it is essential to adapt it to their needs , as well as leaving them free to help us.
If you want to encourage your children’s autonomy in the kitchen, these are all the activities they could do depending on their age and abilities .
From 12-18 months
At the moment when the child begins to walk with a certain ease and balance , we can already begin to involve him in domestic tasks, always paying attention to his abilities and rhythms.
Collaborating at home will not only enhance their gross and fine motor development , but will allow them to gradually acquire certain skills, while promoting their autonomy, confidence and sense of belonging .
Some of the tasks in the kitchen that children could start doing from this age are:
– Put your plate and your glass on the table , and remove it once you have finished eating. For this, it is important that the child has easy, comfortable and direct access to his crockery (it is recommended to store his items in a piece of furniture within his reach), that his plates and glasses are light and made of unbreakable materials, and that the table be up to you.
– Throw things away, such as empty containers, fruit peels, paper napkins, disposable items…
– Clean the counter or table with a cloth : obviously it will not be perfect, but it is an excellent exercise to promote oculo-manual development and fine motor skills .
– Give us those ingredients or kitchen utensils that we ask for : as long as it does not pose any risk to the child , we can begin to involve him in the preparation of very simple dishes (for example, toast, sandwiches, fruit salads, salads…) asking him for help to gather the ingredients and items that we will need.
With this simple task, the child will be expanding their vocabulary and promoting their linguistic development , promoting their senses (because they manipulate foods of different textures, sizes, smells…) and working on important concepts such as classification.
From the age of three
The beginning of the preschool stage marks a very important milestone in the child’s development and autonomy , as well as in their language. Parents must continue to enhance their learning by allowing them to help us in everything they want , as well as transforming their oversights and mistakes into a wonderful way to continue learning and acquiring new skills.
On the other hand, we must know that from the age of two or three , children begin to develop their food preferences , which is why many go through a phase of rejecting certain foods . Involving them in tasks such as shopping at the supermarket , classifying ingredients or cooking can help them get through this delicate period.
Here are some of the tasks that children can start doing in the kitchen from the age of three:
– Help us to set the table for the whole family : if from the beginning they have contributed to setting their plate and glass, surely they are already prepared to set the table for the rest of the family .
It is important that the instructions we give the child are clear, specific and short. That is to say, we will change “we are going to set the table” (a concept that is too broad and confusing for a three-year-old child) for ” we are going to put the plate and the glass of mom, dad and yours; next we will put three forks; we also have to put the loaf of bread and the jug of water to drink…”
– Sweep the floor with the help of a small brush and a dustpan: we have to be patient, as it is a complicated but excellent exercise to promote motor skills and coordination.
– Recycle: although we must instill in children the importance of recycling and taking care of our planet, it is likely that it will not be until they are three or four years old when they successfully separate garbage and throw each piece of waste into the corresponding bin.
– From this age children are ready to actively participate in the preparation of family dishes and menus , a task that they will especially love and with which they will learn important skills.
We will start by entrusting them with simple tasks such as squeezing citrus fruits with help , washing fruits and vegetables , cracking eggs , kneading dough, beating with help, dressing a salad with oil and vinegar, spreading pastry molds with a little butter and flour, mashing fruit or cooked vegetables…
– It is also time to start teaching them to peel and chop fruits and vegetables . At first we will teach you how to do it with your hands, choosing those vegetables that are easy to peel or cut, such as tangerines, bananas, potatoes or cooked tomatoes whose skin is easily removed, lettuce leaves that can be cut into pieces by hand…
When they master this technique we can offer them safe knives for children , but not plastic ones. An expert in Montessori pedagogy recommended the Kiddikutter brand in this article .
From the age of six
From the age of six, children experience a significant advance in the development of their gross and fine motor systems, being able to carry out more precise tasks that require greater coordination .
They also begin to acquire skills related to literacy and logic-mathematics, and to understand increasingly complex concepts. Learning by discovery and experimentation is key, and in the kitchen we can have a wonderful opportunity to continue developing .
The tasks that children can already do easily from this age are:
– Set the entire table for the whole family , taking care of details related to its presentation.
– Wash the dishes, dry them and store them, as well as put the dishwasher (having previously placed all the items in their corresponding compartments) and empty it once it is finished.
– Use simple electrical appliances , under supervision, such as microwaves, juicers or kitchen robot, and become familiar with the operation of more complex ones such as the oven or ceramic hob.
– There are several recipes that children can start preparing from an early age , always under supervision. They can also help us prepare more complex dishes by performing tasks that require precision, such as measuring or weighing ingredients, mixing and kneading them at different stages, cutting them, plating…