A few months ago, I started cooking with my 7-year-old daughter. Not the carefully supervised dumping of measured flour that had passed for “cooking” before, this was hands-on, egg-breaking, messy stuff. A few sessions into our project, I realized that tools and ergonomics are a major part of what holds kids back in the kitchen. Oversized or fragile tools and high workspaces can make a simple task awfully daunting for little hands.
Happily, there are a host of kid-sized and kid-focused cooking tools on the market. Many of these are just for fun, but a few of them can be essential to cooking safely and effectively with youngsters. Each family is unique, so cook with your own kids a few times before outfitting them for kitchen success. Needs for families who like to bake will differ from those who tend towards the savory. Take stock of what you need and shop accordingly.
As for workspaces, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to remodel your kitchen to have shorter counters and sinks. Instead, try setting up a stable kids’ table for projects. While working at the counter, opt for a large step stool with rubber stoppers and a no-slip top. (Ikea offers these in a variety of sizes.)
Once your space is ready, you’ll want to offer the little ones a selection of the best kids’ cooking tools. No matter what kind of kitchen gadget they’re sporting, make sure to stay close and offer help at each juncture. Kids’ cooking is largely about letting them learn from mistakes, so do give them some space, but when anything involving sharp edges or heat comes into play, you’ll definitely want to supervise and assist as needed.
Here are my top 10 picks of kids’ cooking tools:
1. Plastic Cutting Mats
Not only are plastic cutting mats easier for kids to handle, the flexible surface also means the cutting surface can bend to get whatever they’ve cut (mostly) where it needs to be.
2. Nylon Kids’ Knife
Nylon knives offer kids a chance to cut food without serious injury. These blunt-edged serrated knives need a little bit of sawing to get through food, but will offer your kids a chance to get to know the fundamentals of cutting food before they move on to sharper tools.
3. Small Cooking Tools
Everything from whisking to stirring is simpler with the right tools, but adult-sized cooking tools just don’t work with little hands. Start with the essentials — a small whisk, mixing spoon, and spatula — and add on from there.
4. Silicone Trivet
This little silicone trivet does a lot more than keeping hot dishes from ruining your counter — it offers a powerful gripping surface for opening jars and bottles, holding a slippery bowl, and can be used for handling hot foods. Slips and flips are commonplace while cooking with kids, and these smart mats go a long way toward keeping things grounded.
5. Small Grater
Traditional graters are too big for small hands and offer a lot of surface area that can lead to injury. This pint-sized grater will help kids get the mechanics of grating down, safely!
6. Wavy Chopper
For the littlest chefs, the wavy chopper is a safe way to prep vegetables. Even roly poly carrots are a cinch for kids to cut with this well-designed tool.
7. Kids’ Oven Mitts
Taking the leap to actually letting your child touch hot things is not easy. Make it (a little) more bearable with kid-sized oven mitts.
8. Non-Slip Mixing Bowl
Non-slip mixing bowls give your tiny cook the chance to concentrate on their work. (They’re super handy for more experienced chefs, too.)
9. Enamelware Cups, Plates, and Bowls
Class the place up a bit with a few enamelware sets. They can even be used for casual mixing or storing ingredients while prepping. They have the weight and feel of more formal dinnerware, but are sure to survive if dropped (or flung).
10. Small Cookware and Bakeware
Foster independence with tiny tools and bakeware. This well-composed set gives kids the freedom to create cakes, loaves, and other treats all on their own scale. Even the rolling pin is kid-friendly!