How to Teach Children to Make a Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich

Teach kids to make their own lunch.
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What could be easier than making a kid's favorite PB&J? Even little kids can do this, right? Not so fast. Preschoolers can do it, but not without some pretty specific instructions. In fact, many high schools and colleges use the "how to make a PB&J sandwich" as the core of an exercise in writing step-by-step guidance to teach people a new task. Since young kids are pretty literal thinkers, you need to spell out even the steps that most adults take for granted. And don't forget to end with the most important step of all: enjoy your sandwich!

Tell your little sandwich makers to wash and dry their hands before they start their culinary creations.

Get out all the ingredients you will need before starting the sandwich. Explain that it's important to know you have all the needed ingredients before starting any kind of cooking or food preparation activity. Tell each child to get a plate and two pieces of bread. Ask another child to get out a jar of creamy peanut butter and the jelly, and another to get plastic knives, or small icing spreaders. Tell the kids to have their napkins handy, too.

Tell each child to lay out her two slices of bread on the clean counter or table. Give the peanut butter and a knife to one child and the jelly and another knife to a second child. Help the kids take the lids off the jars. Tell each child to use her knife to scoop some of the sandwich filling from her jar, then spread it smoothly and evenly on one of her pieces of bread. If needed, demonstrate the steps to the youngest ones to make sure they understand your instructions. And be sure to tell them not to lick their knives and stick them back into the communal jars!

Tell the kids to swap their jars and knives with each other. Using the new ingredient, the kids should repeat the earlier step, this time spreading the new item on the second piece of bread.

Instruct them to pick up the piece with the peanut butter and carefully put it, peanut butter side down, onto the piece with the jelly. They can then put their sandwiches on their plates, where you can cut them in halves or quarters so they'll be easy to eat. And remind them to use their napkins to wipe off hands and faces when they're done.

  • Don't use peanut butter or any peanut products around kids with peanut allergies.
  • Let kids add something silly to their sandwich to make it uniquely their own -- who wouldn't want to find a gummy worm in his sandwich, or smear marshmallow fluff all over it?

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.