Published on May 16, 2024

Create a Kid-Friendly Kitchen

Shelby Shelby

By Shelby Shebly, MS, RDN, LD, CDCES for Mind & Body

Cooking with your kids is an investment in their future health and learning. Kids who help in the kitchen learn healthy eating habits, acquire cooking skills for the future, and are exposed to new foods to try. Studies show that kids involved in cooking are more likely to try new foods and have healthier diets. In addition to the health benefits of involving your kids in the kitchen, cooking requires math, science, and reading skills. Reading recipes, measuring ingredients, and learning about nutrition are just a few ways that children can learn through cooking.

Try out these tips to set yourself and your kids up for success in the kitchen.

  1. Plan a recipe that is fun and kid-friendly. The ideal recipe might include bright colors, fun shapes, and, of course, delicious flavors. Does your kid love pancakes? Make mini ones for their stuffed animals or make them different shapes using cookie cutters. If trying a new food is your goal, incorporate it into a recipe your kid already enjoys. For instance, add spinach to a smoothie to make it a fun green color. Choosing the right recipe helps you make food fun and lower barriers to eating new foods for your kids.
  2. Prepare for longer prep time and messes when cooking with your children. These are two of the most significant barriers to including our kids in the kitchen. To start, choose to cook with your child during meal or snack time when you have ample time, not the rushed dinner after a long workday. Weekends and days off are great times to try a new recipe with your kids. Also, let’s reframe how we see those messes! Trial-and-error, practice, and messes are all ways your kids learn to be proficient at new skills. Take a deep breath, gently guide your child through the recipe, and let them help clean up when a mess occurs. Add in lots of praise and encouragement along the way to boost their confidence.
  3. Give your child age-appropriate tasks. Evaluate what steps of the recipe your child can perform. For toddlers, mixing, kneading dough, or washing produce are great tasks they will relish. For preschoolers, let them help scoop, mash and spread ingredients, or pour batter into muffin tins. Elementary school children can help cut things using child-safe utensils, weigh and measure ingredients, and make simple recipes (like our three-ingredient banana cookies) with oversight. Involve middle schoolers and teens in all aspects of cooking and grocery shopping to help them gain confidence and independence. And everyone can get involved with clean up!
  4. Work learning into the fun! Find learning opportunities while making recipes with your kids. Describe the textures of the ingredients with your toddlers. Let your preschooler count the ingredients as they go into the bowl. Have your school-aged children do simple math to help you with measuring. Describe the science of cooking and baking along the way. Cooking is a wonderful tool to help your child use what they are learning in school in a practical way.

Remember, including your kids in cooking at home is an investment in their health and knowledge. Not to mention, you will all cherish the memories made in the kitchen along the way. Try this tasty, kid-friendly recipe to kick-start some cooking with your kids!

Three-Ingredient Banana Cookies


  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2 tbsp chocolate chips or other topping (raisins, craisins, nuts, etc)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  2. Mash banana well in a large bowl.
  3. Add 1 cup of quick cooking oats and topping of choice. Stir well.
  4. Form into 6 cookies placed on a cookie sheet.
  5. Bake cookies for 15 minutes.

Nutrition Facts:

Serving Size: 1 cookie

Servings Per Recipe: 6 cookies

Nutrition using chocolate chips: Calories: 95; Total Fat: 2g; Sodium: 0 mg; Total Carbohydrate: 17g; Dietary Fiber: 2g; Protein: 2g

Shelby Shelby is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist at the Owensboro Health Healthpark. 

About Owensboro Health

Owensboro Health is a nonprofit health system with a mission to heal the sick and to improve the health of the communities it serves in Kentucky and Indiana. The system includes Owensboro Health Regional Hospital, nationally recognized for design, architecture and engineering; Owensboro Health Muhlenberg Community Hospital; Owensboro Health Twin Lakes Medical Center; the Owensboro Health Medical Group comprised of over 350 providers at more than 30 locations; three outpatient Healthplex facilities, a certified medical fitness facility, the Healthpark; a weight management program, and the Mitchell Memorial Cancer Center.

On average each year, we have more than 19,000 inpatient admissions, deliver 2,000 babies and provide the region’s only Level III NICU. Owensboro Health physicians perform nearly 33,000 surgical procedures, including nearly 150 open-heart surgeries. Our physicians and staff have 90,000 Emergency Department visits and more than 1.25 million outpatient visits annually. Visit our home page for more information.