Cooking With Kids To Tackle Fussy Eating

January 10, 2024

Did you know that anywhere from 13% to 50% of Australian youngsters will go through a phase of picky eating at some point during their childhood? Whilst most children will outgrow this, 5-20% of children continue to be fussy up until 10 years of age and beyond.

The causes of fussy eating are diverse, but one thing is clear – children experiencing this tend to find less joy in their meals, eat slowly, and quickly feel full. Additionally, the sensory aspect of touch plays a significant role in their eating experiences. Fussy eaters may be hesitant to engage with new food textures, making the dining experience a bit challenging.

However, what if I told you there’s a fun way to ignite excitement in picky eaters and encourage them to explore and touch various foods?

Enter the world of cooking with kids—a simple yet powerful tool to nurture little ones’ interest in and acceptance of a diverse range of foods.

Involving children in the kitchen supports their independence with food the development of life-long healthy eating behaviours. As they chop, stir, and mix, they also pick up vital skills in mathematics, literacy, and an understanding of the science behind food reactions and transformations.

As well as that, cooking with children offers a fantastic opportunity for parents to bond and socialise with their children. When the experience is more enjoyable, it contributes to positive associations with food, making children more likely to embrace new culinary adventures.

How to Introduce Cooking Activities at Home

Cooking with children is a versatile concept that can be introduced at any age. The key is to encourage children to participate in preparing family meals and savouring them together. Start with age-appropriate tasks and gradually progress to more complex ones.

For toddlers, focus on activities that develop their fine motor skills, such as washing fruits, stirring sauces, and soup, or assisting with cake batters.

Preschoolers can take on more independent tasks like peeling and slicing vegetables with child-friendly knives, mashing potatoes, using cookie cutters and getting involved in clean-up tasks.

As children enter Primary School and beyond, they can tackle more complex cooking skills independently. Reading and following recipes, measuring ingredients, and even mastering advanced tasks like boiling pasta become exciting challenges. Parents can share insights into the “whys” behind certain ingredients and cooking reactions, fostering a deeper understanding of the culinary world.

baby being fed in high chair

How to Get Started

The beauty of cooking with children is that it extends beyond the kitchen. Every aspect, from supermarket shopping to tending a herb garden or even washing up, is an opportunity to expose children to foods and encourage interactions that make them more comfortable with a wider range of foods.

To kickstart your culinary adventures, here are a few creative ideas:

  • Explore cookbooks or magazines together, letting your children choose a recipe for the next family dinner.
  • Involve your kids in selecting and bagging fruits and veggies at the supermarket, turning it into a self-serve menu adventure.
  • Unpack groceries together and teach them where different foods are stored in the kitchen.
  • Create a small herb garden on the kitchen windowsill.
  • Demonstrate how to wash fruits and vegetables for a quick, ready-to-eat snack.
  • During family meal preparation, encourage pouring, measuring, mashing, and mixing.
  • Allow children to measure out rice or pasta and water for cooking.
  • Invest in kid-friendly knives and let your child try their hand at cutting foods like bananas, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
  • Foster creativity by letting them set the table with plates, cutlery, and cups, adding a personal touch with name tags or decorations.
  • Experiment with simple frozen yogurt or homemade fruit ice blocks using popsicle moulds.

Encouraging children to cook and explore different foods regularly is crucial for overcoming food fussiness. The more they participate, even in simple activities, the more comfortable and open they become to various foods. Each cooking experience boosts their independence, hones their food skills, and forges positive connections with meals.

For a fun start, check out our MindChamps Cooking with Kids Friendly recipes here:


MindChamps Global Chief Nutrition Officer Mandy Sacher is Australia’s leading Paediatric Nutritionist, best-selling Author, child nutrition expert, blogger, and mother of two! She is also known for co-developing MEND (Mind Exercise Nutrition Do It!), the world’s largest and most researched childhood obesity prevention and treatment program based in the UK that was developed with over ten years of research. 

Mandy and her Nutrition Team believe in the well-being of all our MindChamps children and that their nutritional needs should be fulfilled in our centres. Mandy’s philosophy is simple – teach children’s taste buds to enjoy nourishing, nutritionally beneficial foods as early as possible to ensure optimal development and establishment of lifelong healthy eating behaviours. Bridging the gaps in food and nutrition, this first-of-its-kind partnership is our commitment to creating and elevating a positive and lasting impact on childhood nutrition on a global level.