Here's a summary of what kids can do at each age group.
AGES 3 TO 5 At this age, motor skills aren't fully developed and neither is attention span. Intricate tasks, tasks that require multiple steps, or tasks that require attention to detail aren't for this age group. Kids this age shouldn't be using implements either, even while supervised. But simple hands-only motions that don't require precision are perfect.
Appropriate tasks include washing fruits and vegetables, tearing lettuce into pieces for burgers or salads, or sprinkling pre-measured seasonings over dishes.
AGES 6 TO 8 This age group has begun to develop the motor skills and temperament to trust with child-safe implements. While you should still supervise, you can introduce kids to knife skills with nylon kid-safe knives. Depending on their maturity level, they may also be able to use graters and zesters. Kids at this age know and understand measurements so it will be good practice for their math skills to see if they can double or halve measurements of recipes.
Appropriate tasks include measuring ingredients, mixing dry rubs, and chopping soft fruits and vegetables such as bananas and zucchini.
AGES 9 TO 12 Most of the kids you'll see on MasterChef Junior fall into this age group, and as you see in the TV show, they can do a lot on their own. Different kids have different maturity levels, of course. If the child hasn't cooked before, start them with simple tasks. Then build up to more involved tasks where they are using appliances or working around heat or flame.
Appropriate tasks include peeling vegetables, pounding meat thin for the grill, and placing items on the grill (while closely supervised).
AGES 13+ Kids at this age should have the maturity level and motor skills to do just about any kitchen task the average adult can do. If they display these talents, you can have them help out with all phases of the grilling process from making their own dry rubs to prepping their own ingredients, and even taking their first steps as a grillmaster. This is also a safe age to begin allowing them to use sharp knives — after they complete a beginning knife skills course.
Appropriate tasks include chopping vegetables, starting the grill (closely supervised), and monitoring and flipping items as they cook.
See here for the overall Kids in the Kitchen cooking guide from Traeger Grills.
Come back next week for a recipe for grilled Avocado Toast, Grilled Vegetables, and more! This is the first in a series on getting kids involved in summertime grilling! See you then! ~ Amy Houts