Molly Birnbaum is editor-in-chief of America’s Test Kitchen Kids and an editor of The Complete Cookbook for Young Chefs and The Complete Baking Book for Young Chefs.

“Have you ever baked a cake before?” I asked Quinn, 9, at the beginning of a recent recipe-testing session in Boston. He seemed a little nervous as he shook his head no. But just over two hours later, Quinn carefully frosted his (slightly slanted) layer cake before proudly serving a piece to his parents. He had baked his first cake, with only a bit of help.

Since then, Quinn has been baking regularly at home and putting what he learned–like measuring all his ingredients before starting to bake–into practice. And although he definitely enjoys sampling his creations, he has also discovered the joy of sharing the food he’s made with others, from muffins for his friends to cookies for his soccer team.

As editor in chief of America’s Test Kitchen Kids, a company that develops recipes for children, I’ve witnessed many scenes like this and heard stories of such victories from children all over the country. Whether it’s an 11-year-old discovering a love of tomatoes or an 8-year-old delighting in cooking her first piece of chicken for her family, each one reminds me of the value of teaching kids to cook and bake from a young age. My own daughter, Olive, is only 2½, but I’ve found that having her help me with simple tasks, like mixing, stirring, rolling or squishing, has sparked an interest in food and how it works–in addition to getting her to expand her toddler palate.

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