Kids in the Kitchen
A child’s first time baking or helping their parents cook is one of the most distinct memories they make in their early years. Whether it is helping with dinner, making cookies, or just messing around in the flour while mom did all the work – it is a healthy thing for children to explore. Kitchens can also come with a whole set of issues, so how do you keep your child safe while also letting them learn to cook? Check out these top tips to keep everyone happy!
When you first get into the kitchen, you need to teach your child the basic safety protocols while cooking. Not only do they need to wash their hands before and after cooking, between raw and ready-to-eat items, and put their hair up, but they need to know what tools are acceptable for them while they help you. Have them go through the kitchen with you and learn what is “okay” and what is “not okay” – knives, for example, when you’re first starting out, are going to be “not okay”, but whisks and spatulas will be.
Talk to them about burns, cuts, and the possibilities of a fire. It might seem like a scary thing to talk about, but having a healthy fear of the kitchen is one of the best things you can teach your child. Make sure that you have a fire extinguisher in or near your kitchen, and teach your child where it is and how and when to use it. Have them learn how to put out grease and other kinds of fires, and when it is appropriate to use water or baking soda to put the fires out. They should also know to never leave the kitchen unattended while they are cooking, as it can be a disaster waiting to happen.
Let’s Get Cooking!
Start off with making sure whatever you’re having your child do is age-appropriate. Assess their skills with listening and following directions, as well as their motor skills. Some 5 year olds can handle a hand mixer, some will still need to use the big wooden spoon – whichever your child is does not matter, what matters is letting them learn at their own speed. Don’t forget to teach them the terminology of what they are learning – speaking about cooking is part of the process as well! No 6 year old is going to know what saute means until you teach them, and once you get them started, there’s no limit to the skills and language they can acquire – they might even teach you something later on!
As they get older and learn more skills and want to take on more responsibility – let them! Make sure that you continue to supervise them as they learn new skills, but try to keep it more hands off after the child hits about the twelve-year-old mark. Allowing them to make their own mistakes is going to be one of the best learning tools that you might not be able to provide them directly.
Cooking is a fantastic way to build self-esteem in younger kids, as well as give them the opportunities to learn skills and how to eat healthily. Research has shown that children that cook are more likely to eat healthier throughout their lives – and a lot of that has to do with the excitement that comes from cooking in the first place. Don’t hesitate to bring your child into the kitchen, as long as you sit them down and have them understand the consequences first – it could develop into a life-long love!
Written by Daniel Sherwin