5 Essential Tools for Cooking with Kids

updated Sep 30, 2020
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(Image credit: Anne Wolfe Postic)

Cooking with younger kids isn’t much different than everyday cooking, but tiny cooks require a few tools to make their time in the kitchen easier on you as their sous-chef and better for them as they learn. Luckily most of these tools are inexpensive, easy to find, or adaptable for your tiny cook. These are five of my favorite tools for cooking with young kids.

1. A Sturdy Step Stool

A step stool is the starting place for getting young kids cooking because it helps them reach the counter. You can make a standard two-step step stool work for tiny chefs who are 3 and older. For even younger kids, look for a safety step stool (we own and love this learning tower). Safety step stools have three or more sides for keeping fidgety cooks in place and sturdy feet to prevent tipping. Many safety step stools fold up for storage, which is a plus if you have a small kitchen. Painted step stools (rather than unfinished models) are easier to keep clean and dry.

2. Plastic Mixing Bowls

If you love your glass and ceramic mixing bowls, and you want them to last, you should buy your tiny chef a set of their own plastic mixing bowls. Bigger bowls are better, as young children tend to mix wildly, knocking ingredients out of the bowl and all over the kitchen, but it’s helpful to have a variety of sizes. Plastic bowls are lighter, helping your tiny chef maneuver them more readily without dropping, and won’t be damaged by the rough handling of a 2-year-old. Bonus points if you can find plastic mixing bowls with no-skid coating on their bottoms.

3. A Tiny Knife

Consider a knife a magic wand for young children learning to cook — as in, they are going to be in complete awe of having their own special tool and also wielding it with abandon. Start really young cooks off with a serrated cake knife, which mimics the weight, shape, and feel of a chef’s knife without the sharp edge. The serrated edge makes cutting bread, cheese, soft fruit, and vegetables possible without any nicks or cuts.

Slightly older children, think 3- to 5-year-olds, can be introduced to safety knives. Many of these knives have real metal blades with a flat blunt edge. They make easy work of most fruits and vegetables, save for hard squashes and watermelon rinds, but can also cut tiny fingers. This is a good knife to practice safe knife holding and handling.

4. No-Skid Cutting Boards

In partnership with their own knife, a no-skid cutting board is helpful for teaching tiny chefs knife skills. I have tried and failed to keep a wet paper towel or piece of drawer liner under standard cutting boards with my own tiny chefs, but since my daughter often wants to move her cutting board away from her little brother’s wandering hands, I can’t guarantee the no-skid assistance will move with her. Instead a board with no-skid feet or a no-skid backing helps us both feel more confident and gives her the freedom to move her board as she needs.

5. A Hand Mixer

A hand mixer is nice to have if you plan to do a lot of baking with your tiny chef. Stand mixers are potentially dangerous for little hands that might want to reach in while the mixer is running. Instead, a hand mixer can be driven by both the tiny chef and the adult sous-chef. As an added bonus, hand mixers have two beaters for sharing, versus the stand mixer’s single paddle or whisk attachment.

Tiny Chefs

Tiny Chefs is a celebration of everyday cooking with young kids. Tiny chefs are under age 8 and need more help in the kitchen than older kids, but can learn habits for cooking and eating that will last their lifetime. This is a collection of our best strategies, favorite tools, and sage advice for including tiny chefs in your kitchen.