With little ones that may mean simply stirring the ingredients an adult puts in a mixing bowl and licking the spoon afterwards. Older kids may be able to handle sharp knives and hot stoves, and kids in between can help in many ways such as getting out foods and equipment, measuring and adding ingredients, and cleaning up afterwards.
Besides providing some together time with a parent in the kitchen, letting kids help with cooking has many benefits. It helps them appreciate the work that goes into preparing meals, and gives them experience following directions.
Measuring ingredients helps with math skills, and recipes are short opportunities to practice reading. If more than one child is involved, cooking provides the opportunity and motivation to share responsibilities and take turns.
For reluctant eaters, helping to prepare a meal can motivate them to at least taste foods they might otherwise refuse.
And the pleasure of sharing foods they cooked or helped to prepare helps kids learn the value of hard work.