At what age can children make their own dinner?

How old would your child have to be before you'd let them cook a basic hot meal - like beans on toast - for themselves? We asked 1,427 parents – and also an opinion from an expert

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In a nutshell: Age 10 is when most parents said they’d let their child make their own dinner – a basic hot meal (we polled 1,427 parents).

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Lots of kids love cooking – especially if it’s something like baking cakes and biscuits with a parent for special occasions or as a fun weekend activity.

But at what age should children be able to cook a basic meal for themselves? We’re talking simple hot dishes that might require using a microwave, toaster, or both?

One of the mums on the MFM team says her 7-year-old daughter now makes her own tea once a week: a simple dish like scrambled eggs (made in the microwave) with buttered toast and perhaps some chopped tomatoes on the side. Others of us confess to having almost-teenage sons who can’t even work the kettle yet…

But what about other parents? We asked 1,427 parents at what age they’d let their children cook a basic hot meal, and the most popular answers were:

  • 10 (28%)
  • Over 12 (16%)
  • 11 or 12 (both 14%)
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When we probed further, we found lots of people agreed that being able to cook is a really good basic skill kids should have, but that they’d always make sure their kids were being supervised in the kitchen to avoid any accidents.

One respondent, who has 2 kids, the oldest being 9 said: “[Cooking is the] first thing the squirts in our house are taught.

“Beans on toast will keep them alive at university, or prison, so they know how to drive the toaster from an early age and are then supervised with the stove.

“They do the work, we just watch from a distance in case they decide to burn the house down or die or something.”

Others agreed that cooking’s such a good thing to know, with one mum adding: “With supervision – so they learn how to do it…. a life skill.”

And a few who have slightly older children revealed they can now cook for the whole family: “Having taught mine to cook responsibly,” one mum says, “I’m happy for my 11-year-old to cook an omelette or beans on toast on their own.

“And my 13-year-old loves to cook and regularly makes dinner: fajitas, spaghetti bolognese, curry etc.” 

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Not all were so sure it was something their children would need to learn at a particularly early age, though, with one respondent, the parent of 2 kids (the oldest being 9), saying: “I would cook – they won’t have to.”

What does the expert say?

Probably the biggest issue when it comes to letting your child cook, is around safety: making sure they don’t scald themselves, or cut themselves using sharp knives.

When we asked a spokesperson at RoSPA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents), they agreed.

“It is important to remember that children are particularly at risk of burns and scalds because of their inquisitive nature, so small children should be kept out of the kitchen while cooking,” they advised us.

“An older child should only be cooking hot food with a parent’s permission, and should be aware of the dangers.”

Good advice – and worth regularly reminding your kids about safety issues, like not to put metal in the microwave or forks/knives in the toaster, as well as to make sure they use oven gloves, and to check they’ve turned everything off when they’re done.

Pics: Getty

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