It’s so easy to send the kids off to watch TV while you prepare holiday meals (or a weekend dinner) isn’t it? But as a mom whose kids don’t know much about cooking, I wish I had brought them into the kitchen earlier and more often.

Teaching cooking tips, sharing the work, and making memories is fun and rewarding. Yes, it can be challenging, too, but in retrospect I believe the pluses outweigh the downsides—and even the mess. Children of every age can benefit by helping with the holiday celebrations—from planning meals, making lists and shopping together, to meal prep and cooking

Close supervision in the kitchen is recommended for all ages, especially when older kids start shredding and cutting. Safety first! Mistakes happen—and that in itself is a great kitchen lesson. From using different cutting boards for meat and vegetables to opening a metal can safely, these are important skills to master for any cook. Be patient and expect a mess. It’s not easy to mix ingredients or crack an egg for the first time. With practice and guidance, they’ll learn, and these skills will last a lifetime.

Here’s a list of kitchen tasks for every age:

Ages 2-6:

  • Pour dry ingredients inti a bowl
  • Rinse vegetables at the sink
  • Scrub potatoes with a brush
  • Sprinkle herbs and spices (put herbs and spices in the right-size spoons first, so you won’t end up with  half a salt shaker on your chicken)
  • Add croutons to a salad
  • Brush oil on bread

Ages 6-9:

  • Spread butter on bread
  • Knead or roll out dough
  • Spray cooking spray into a pan
  • Use a plastic knife to cut soft fruits like strawberries and peaches for pies
  • Measure ingredients into spoons and measuring cups

Age 10+:

  • Scrape mixer bowls
  • Pour batter into pans and tins
  • Grate cheese or carrots (carefully!)
  • Slice cheese (plastic knives are safest, or help your child hold a regular knife and supervise closely at all times)
  • Arrange cheese on platters with crackers
  • Whip cream or cake mix with an electric mixer
  • Peel apples for pie
  • Form patties
  • Garnish platters
  • Decorate cakes
  • Crack eggs into a bowl and know how to scoop out any shell pieces
  • Peel hard boiled eggs
  • Mash yolks for deviled eggs
  • Mix stuffing
  • Arrange a salad into a bowl artfully
  • Pound meats
  • Marinade meats

Take as much help as you can get and your kids will feel the pride of accomplishment. What tasks will your kids help you with this season?