There’s nothing better than a summer cookout and, for kids, there are assorted ways to help out. From shucking the corn to layering cheese on the burgers (we like Sargento® 100%, real natural cheese), the options are endless. Just consider them to be your super sous chefs helping out with meal prep, clean up, and everything in between.

We reached out to chefs, writers, and bloggers around the country and asked them for their favorite ways to get kids excited about grilling. Read on for their seven kid-friendly ways to make grilling—and all the other dishes served at the barbecue—a fun group activity.

Find age-appropriate ways for them to help

son helping father shape burgers
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The type of tasks your kids can take on near a grill depends entirely on their age. Elementary school-aged kids can help carry items out to the backyard or patio or they can wash up and then do some burger-shaping. “Little kids can trade the modeling clay for burger meat by helping form the burgers when it’s time for meal prep,” says Robert Vazquez, executive chef of Sanderling Resort in Duck, North Carolina. “This will give them the opportunity to practice their shapes!” Tweens and teens can take on bigger jobs. “They can carry the charcoal bag or bring the prep tools to the grill side,” says this dad of an 11-year-old. “Or they can clean the grill once it’s fully cooled down. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing the grease and char come off the grates!”

Build a toppings tray

One surefire way to get kids excited about grilling is to have them help build a toppings and condiments tray using either a medium to large baking sheet or wood cutting board as the base, says Cindy Chou, a registered dietitian nutritionist who creates recipes at HealthyFeels. “Parents can put out different shapes and sizes of bowls, ramekins and cups, which work well for crudité and pickle spears, and let them get creative about filling each,” she says. “The baking sheet can even be lined with colorful construction paper for added color and fun.” Layer sliced cheese—Sargento® has plenty of options your kids will love, including sharp cheddar, pepper jack, Swiss, Colby-Jack and provolone—and have the kids write fun little cards denoting each type. Voila. Everyone will have fun picking their favorite burger topper!

Sliced Sharp Natural Cheddar Cheese
Sargento® Sliced Sharp Natural Cheddar Cheese
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Credit: Sargento
Sliced Pepper Jack Natural Cheese
Sargento® Sliced Pepper Jack Natural Cheese
Sliced Swiss Natural Cheese
Sargento® Sliced Swiss Natural Cheese
Credit: Sargento
Sliced Colby-Jack Natural Cheese
Sargento® Sliced Colby-Jack Natural Cheese
Credit: Sargento

Teach the fundamentals

dad showing son about grill zones
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Matt Bolus, the chef at The 404 Kitchen in Nashville, considers his eight-year-old daughter to be his best assistant—with a few caveats. “It’s important to teach kids the respect for what we’re doing and show them which is the hot spot on the grill and which is the cool spot,” says Bolus who also has a two-year-old that isn’t old enough to stand near the grill. “She only began helping me on the grill after I explained how to carefully put a steak on the flame. Now that she knows how to stay safe near the grill, she loves brushing butter on corn or topping the burgers with her favorite cheese.”

Let kids do the seasoning

Salting the meat before it goes on the grill is a great way to get kids involved—and excited—about grilling, says Jay Cutler, co-creator of CUTS, a monthly meat box subscription service. “They can then throw pepper on it after the steak comes off the grill. Doing it this way means that the heat won’t affect the flavor of the pepper.”

Prep the corn & the butter

Kids love to shuck corn (what’s a barbecue without it?) and Adrian Davila, owner of Davila’s Barbecue in Seguin, Texas, welcomes the help from his many nieces and nephews. “I always tell them that before you grill whole corn or put it in a barbecue pit, you need to get it ready by putting the shucked corn in cold water,” he says. “They love learning that this seals in the moisture.” Davila has found that kids also like making different flavored butters, such as honey butter or honey chipotle. “It’s super easy for them to make these and they really amp up the taste of grilled corn on the cob.”

Help with grilled cheese

little girl eating grilled cheese made with sargento

Grilled cheese—tossed on an actual grill—is a definite crowdpleaser, especially among kids. Davila loves making grilled cheese with his young relatives and he lets the older ones (10 and up, readiness permitting) lay out the bread, put the cheese in between, and butter it before it’s ready to be grilled. Keep Sargento® slices, made with 100% real, natural cheese, on hand so they can custom-create delicious sammies for the whole crowd. “Younger kids can prep all the ingredients and have them ready for whomever is manning the grill,” he says. “It’s fun to see which cheeses they like best.”

Make DIY veggie pinwheels

mom helping daughter slice peppers
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While the burgers and hot dogs are sizzling, parents can set up a veggie roll-up station and invite kids to assemble their own, suggests Chou. All you need are tortillas, guacamole and pre-cut raw veggies. “Kids love spreading the guacamole on the tortillas with a small spatula and then layering on thinly sliced strips of cucumbers and carrots to add a nice crunch,” she says. “Next, you can help your kids roll up each tortilla tight and cut it. It’s a yummy side dish or appetizer that they will love making on their own.”