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Cooking with Kids: Step-by-Step Play

2017-01-15 by Julie Kieras

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This cooking with kids, step-by-step play activity is shared by our Blog Ambassador Julie of Happy Strong Home!

For little ones we don’t want near the stove yet, a play kitchen with play food is an excellent place to start teaching basic cooking skills safely. And the step-by-step nature of cooking lends itself to practicing sequencing skills with real-life activities.

play kitchen

When we got our boys a play kitchen set (because they’ve been talking about wanting to start their own restaurant for a while now), I was immediately drawn to the pasta play food kit as well!

Pasta is probably up there in a child’s top five meal favorites. And it’s a great meal to start with when teaching basic cooking skills.

One way I play alongside my boys and their kitchen set, is by having them “copy me” while I am actually cooking dinner.

“First I need a big pot for the pasta! Who’s got a big pot?” And one of the boys will find a pot for their little stove.

“What comes next?” I’ll ask. Usually, they are anxious to dump the felt pasta shapes in, but I remind them there’s another step first: water!

We fill up our pots: me with actual water, the boys with imaginary water in the little sink.

play kitchen sink

“Now what?” I ask.  And by this point, the boys are thinking sequentially – although they want to reach for the pasta, one of them realizes they need to turn the stove on first.


Finally it’s time to put the pasta in the “water.” Because their play cooking always takes less time than mine, we run through several rounds of cook-serve-eat together while I wait for our real dinner to finish cooking.

play kitchen pasta set

play kitchen pasta set

play kitchen stirring pasta

My youngest loves to copy me step-by-step! Each step he completes is a small win to celebrate! He loves to use the special fork that actually allows linguini to “twirl” around it. He’s a pasta-eating pro!

One way to adjust cooking play for older kids is to have them attempt to follow the pasta-making steps from memory instead of copying you.

Or, sometimes, we add steps:

  • Salt the water (although unnecessary in real pasta cooking, it’s a fun add!)
  • Set the timer (pasta should cook for 6-8 minutes)
  • Strain the pasta
  • Set the table

Along the way, there’s plenty of time for the boys to take restaurant orders, cut bread and vegetables with wooden cutting food sets, and explore the kitchen tools.

play kitchen cutting bread


By the time our family is actually ready for dinner, my boys have a good handle on the basic steps to cooking pasta. I’m guessing by the time they’re ready for the real stove, they’ll have this meal down pat!

Play food and kitchens are a great opportunity for me to work and play alongside my children. I can teach them valuable life skills, be involved in their playtime, while still getting my own meal prep done!

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Julie Kieras

Julie Kieras mothers two inquisitive boys with the support of her husband in the lovely four seasons of New England. She is often found at home interpreting toddler-speak, elbow deep in Play Dough, or behind the pages of a book. She blogs about her family life at HappyStrongHome.com.

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