Growing up, I had a limited role in the kitchen: stir muffin batter. It’s not that my mom and dad weren’t great cooks (they are!), it’s that they didn’t trust me around sharp knives, hot ovens, or simmering pots. I can appreciate their abundance of caution—it’s important to teach kids kitchen safety—but I can’t help but wish they would have let me in on the cooking sooner. Maybe then I would have learned to scramble eggs beforecollege.
There’s no exact science of when kids can start cooking, but the earlier the better. Not only does mixing and stirring and baking and boiling teach valuable skills, it also gives a boost of confidence they can carry outside of the kitchen. Don't worry about sending them off to whip up dinner. Begin with projects where they can pitch in—even little hands can help shape meatballs or mash bananas. For some inspiration, here are 17 recipes kids can help cook.