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10 easy ways to make cooking fun for kids at home

Want your kids to feel excited about food and enjoy cooking and baking at home? Here are some tried-and-tested tips to make cooking with kids fun, including recommendations from Mumsnetters.

By Lucy Cotterill | Last updated Mar 2, 2023

A mother and kids making biscuits in the kitchen

Learning how to cook is a crucial life skill. Not only can it lead to a better, more healthy  relationship with food, but teaching children about food from a young age (both where it comes from and how to cook it) can make them more adventurous eaters too. Cooking with your children is a great way to encourage them to try new flavours and explore new dishes, while experiencing a whole host of educational benefits along the way.

If the thought of letting your kids loose in the kitchen is enough to put you off your food - relax. We’ve scoured the Mumsnet forums for hints, tips and recommendations from real parents on the methods they’ve used to get their kids excited about cooking. 

Whether you’re baking with your children for the first time, getting them involved in cooking fun family-friendly meals or hoping to instil a lifelong love of cooking, here’s our starter for ten on how to make cooking fun for kids. 

Fun kitchen appliances can encourage kids into the kitchen. We've got handy guides to the best ice cream makers, the best popcorn makers, the best waffle makers, the best blenders for smoothies, and the best pasta makers, all featuring product reviews from Mumsnetters. 

1. Allow them to explore food 

Children learn through observing the world around them, so if you want your children to have an interest in cooking and baking - let them observe you doing it first. Allow them to explore the ingredients - touching, smelling and tasting them so they become familiar with the different textures and appearances of food. 

The more they see cooking as part of everyday life, the more interest they’re likely to show. 

Top tips from Mumsnetters

"Since they were able to stay seated my children have first observed cooking and later participated in meal preparation, not only baking. When they were little, I would sit them on the bench and they would pour ingredients, put cut vegetables in pans or pots, having them touch and smell the ingredients and spices" -  LeGrandBleu 

2. Let them take control

As much as children love to help their parents, allowing them to take the lead (with your observation and support if they need it) can really help them feel in control and grow in confidence in the kitchen. From doing the food shop with a list of ingredients to following a recipe, kids love taking responsibility for their own tasks.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“My kids help me cook by fetching ingredients - it's a bit like a treasure hunt, also helps them learn to count, e.g. bring me three carrots, two onions, five potatoes, six cherry tomatoes” - ducktape

“Find the smaller jobs within the meal to do. It may be a correlation but DD at 12 is a gourmet girl who cooks excellently.”MrsTerryPratchett 

Read next: The best popcorn makers for fun family movie nights

3. Embrace the mess

Kids messy baking

Like most creative tasks, cooking and baking with kids is likely to result in a bit of mess in your kitchen, whether that's flour-covered countertops or a sink full of washing-up. 

Try not to stress or take over - cooking takes practice, which means children need to learn to perform certain tasks such as cracking eggs and stirring cake mixture with just the right amount of force. Accept that practice makes perfect and that there will inevitably be some cleaning up to do at the end. 

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“Any activity with small kids will, however, be chaotic and messy. I think you just have to bite the bullet and accept that.”10HailMarys 

“I love baking with my son. It is very messy, but so is painting, doing pottery, building houses with tiny bricks and cement and all the other things we would be doing if we were not baking. At least with baking, I get cake!” -  Snugglemonkey 

4. Seek out the educational fun 

Cooking and baking can be educational as well as fun, so seek out ways they can demonstrate their knowledge, linking it back to what they’re learning at school. 

Simple tasks such as weighing ingredients or following a recipe in the right order can be really entertaining for kids. They will love reading the measurements on electronic scales as ingredients are added to the bowl, turning the oven to the right temperature (supervised) and setting a timer so they can count down the minutes until their creation is complete.   

Top tips from Mumsnetters

"It's worth getting electronic scales so that you are the one pouring ingredients while they have to check the numbers and tell you when you have enough."PoppyWearer 

“Baking helps them develop their language (reading a recipe), maths (weighing/measuring, adding, temp scales, time) and science. As well as health and safety. BUT, they have to be at the age to be ready to do those things.”2kidsintow 

5. Make their own movie night snacks  

Family movie nights are loads of fun, but they’re even more exciting when the kids are in control of the snacks. Whether you use a popcorn maker or help them pop seeds over the hob - let them stir in the ingredients, add their favourite toppings and pour into reusable popcorn containers, before snuggling up under a blanket and turning the lights down low. They’ll love experimenting with sugar, toffee and cinnamon to replicate the full cinema experience! 

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“My daughter had one last year, aged 10. She loves it and it's an easy way for her to have a relatively healthy snack after school, also fun for when she's got friends over.”Gazelda 

Read next: The best ice cream makers, as recommended by families

6. Make your own ice cream in summer

Child with an ice cream on a sofa

On a hot summer's day, there’s nothing more refreshing than a satisfying scoop (or two) of ice cream and it’s always sure to be a hit with the kids. 

Why not help your kids make their own ice cream, sorbet or smoothies using an ice cream maker or blender and pop your iced treats into the freezer until you’re all ready to enjoy them? Children will love experimenting with different favours and scooping generous helpings into a sundae glass, before adding sprinkles and sauce. 

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“We have one from Lakeland, it was £50 and makes AMAZING ice cream!” -  bearlyactive

7. Make family favourites 

When it comes to cooking with kids, they’re likely to be enthusiastic about cooking if they’re creating some of their favourite family dishes, from blitzing breadcrumbs in the blender for homemade chicken nuggets to rolling out fresh sheets of homemade pasta using a pasta maker. Kids also love making their own pizzas from scratch - everything from rolling out the dough to spooning on tomato sauce and adding their favourite choice of toppings. 

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“I’d suggest making chicken nuggets with cornflakes! She could crush the cornflakes and do the dipping/coating of the chicken pieces.” - Fivemoreminutes1 

“Pizzas - Let them spread the tomato purée on and have things (peppers, toms, tuna, sweetcorn, cheese etc) ready chopped for them to add. Make smiley faces out of veg.”Iwritethissittinginthekitchensink 

“Make fresh pasta! I did this with my dd and it was a great activity, took a while and she loved it. She was four. I really want to do it again actually but have moved and have no idea where the machine is! If you don't have a machine you can make farfalle quite easily (rolling out as thin as poss) and eat it immediately or dry it, or do ravioli?” - LittleSarah

Read next: The best pasta makers for fun family mealtimes

8. Start off with baking

Children baking in the kitchen

If the thought of cooking full meals with your children feels like a step too far, baking with kids is a great place to kickstart their culinary journey. 

A simple victoria sponge, chocolate brownie or individual cupcakes are quick and simple to make, while introducing children to basic tasks such as cracking eggs, measuring flour and even helping them get to grips with a hand mixer. 

The most challenging part? Waiting for the sponge to cool before they can get creative with the decoration… those few minutes will seem like an hour to an over-excited child.

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“I taught my kids to use an electric hand mixer from an early age (this is 1-2-1 baking, not with several of them). That way we could make any cakes.  She held the mixer in one hand and the edge of the bowl in the other, and my hands were over hers. By teaching her how to do it, and showing them how a spoon gets caught in the mixer, by the time they were 5 they could do it safely. I think kids are much more capable than you think.” - steppemum 

“Baking is a feel-good activity, if you break it right down you have many many skills involved and when you are done there is cake! ...what's not to like?”TondelayaDellaVentamiglia

9. Get their own child-friendly kitchen utensils

The thought of passing sharp knives or potato peelers to your child might be enough to put you off, but did you know you can pick up child-friendly kitchen utensils too? From children’s first knife sets to brightly coloured baking kits, or even smaller-sized mixing bowls, spoons and spatulas, they’ll love having their own tools and taking responsibility for their dishes. 

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“For a normal dinner, let them chop the easier things - I got little child-friendly knives and they cut up mushrooms for a stir fry, or tofu, or peppers (once I've taken out the core part), or lettuce...things that are too hard and left to me include carrots, potatoes, swede, cauliflower and the like.” - elrider 

10. Subscribe to a baking or cooking subscription 

If you’re cooking less frequently, don't want to waste ingredients or are simply lacking in inspiration, baking and cooking subscriptions for kids are a great place to start. Featuring pre-measured ingredients and easy-to-follow instructions, they make a great bonding activity for parents and their children, while introducing new recipes and creative ideas to make in the kitchen. 

Top tips from Mumsnetters

“I had a Baked In subscription for a while and found that quite good, there were a lot of cakes but it did occasionally have some bread-type stuff on there too like pretzels.”Laufeythejust 

“I bought my 10-year-old a Bakedin bread subscription for her birthday last year (normal adult version, not a kids’ one), and that went down well.” - ineedacupoftea 

Read next: The best blenders for smoothies, as tried and tested by families