Most children love to cook when given the opportunity, and most parents will love the learning opportunity it provides! Cooking involves reading, math skills, science, knowledge of good nutrition, and much more. Here are some tips for providing a fun and safe experience for your child in the kitchen.
Cooks of all ages should always start any food preparation with a good wash of the hands. Hands should be washed frequently after touching pungent ingredients, and especially after handling raw meat and eggs.
Spills and messes are definitely a big part of cooking with kids, and a child-size apron can help to keep clothes clean. If an apron isn’t available, an old shirt will do. It’s best to avoid oversized or loose clothing, as saggy sleeves or clothes could easily catch fire or get caught in mixer beaters or other equipment. Spills are also more likely when counters and tables are too high for children to work at comfortably. Provide a step stool or have them work at a small table to reduce the messiness of your project.
Taste testing is a fun part of the cooking process, and teaches kids to be creative, but when it comes to meats, poultry or other products like raw eggs, remind your child to wait until everything is cooked thoroughly before taste-testing.
Using the Kitchen Safely
Of course, you should always monitor your child while he or she is cooking in the kitchen–a burn or cut will quickly put an end to your fun session. Keep in mind that children have short attention spans, so be sure to give them quick, simple jobs, and give instructions one at a time. Don’t be afraid to repeat directions as often as needed, as they can be easily forgotten in the excitement of preparing a yummy dish.
Even if you have special kids’ cooking tools for your child, it’s important that you always watch them while they use knives, food processors, blenders, or other sharp kitchen tools and gadgets. If your child is old enough to use a knife, make sure he or she points the blade away from the body and keeps her or his fingers away from the blade while cutting.
When using the oven or stove, always use potholders or oven mitts (no dish towels) when handling hot pots, pans, or quality bakeware sets. Keep pot and pan handles turned toward the back of the stove so they won’t be knocked over by accident, and, of course, only use microwave-safe cookware in the .
Make Learning Fun
Cooking presents an opportunity for learning in a fun and engaging setting. Kids can utilize math skills through counting and measuring ingredients, reading recipes helps with comprehension, and observing food changing during cooking can provide a science lesson. Cooking dishes from other parts of the world is a great way to learn about different cultures, and most importantly, children gain self esteem when they learn to cook for themselves.
Take the time to cook with your child today, and open up a whole new world of culinary fun!