Cooking Time Can Be Family Time
Teaching Your Children Safety and Creativity in the Kitchen
If you teach your children to cook, you will be training them to take care of themselves now and far into the future. Cooking is not only an important skill but it can be a creative outlet. My own artistic child likes to draw but she also loves to bake. In fact, she tells me she's going to be a cake designer when she grows up (too much Cake Boss on the Food Channel in my house). Particularly while they're younger it is vital to keep your childrens' safety in mind first and foremost in the kitchen.
First I will list some of the important safety rules both kids and their parents should be following in the kitchen then I'll add some strategies families can use in cooking together.
- Before cooking (and eating for that matter), all parties involved should wash their hands. This eliminates contaminants from hands getting into the food during preparation.
- Choose recipes appropriate for the age of the children you're cooking with. Understandably, you may not want to use recipes with a lot of cooking on a range or baking in the oven to avoid burning little fingers. Also recipes with lots of steps may discourage children from cooking since children won't have the immediate satisfaction of trying the finished product. Also, it is common sense on the part of the adult involved not to try making a recipe that might get messy. For example, making cinnamon rolls would get incredibly messy at my house and my kids would get tired of waiting for the rolls to rise and bake before eating them.
- Don't choose a recipe with raw eggs or meat for a few reasons. First, you can't have kids sampling the food as they cook with these raw ingredients. Also, sometimes cooking with children can take a while and cooking with raw meat or eggs means that they might sit for too long at room temperature, risking bacteria growth.
- Prepare everything before you start. You are teaching your kids to cook so first put everything out to cook with. If not, the kids can get distracted pulling ingredients out for you or, worse, you'll go to get ingredients possibly leaving your them unsupervised with by the stove or with potentially dangerous food prep utensils.
- Teach your children knife skills slowly. In fact, I would suggest that you don't teach your kids to use a knife until they're at least eight years old and that often depends on the maturity of the individual child. In our kitchen, we keep utensils like sharp knives in a drawer they can't open until they can use them safely.
- Be careful to watch what your kids put in their mouths when you're cooking together. (This is another reason why you shouldn't use raw eggs or meat in your early recipes you make together.) Often kids may not understand that the dish needs to be cooked to be absolutely safe or that just butter and sugar alone (for example) doesn't yet taste like chocolate chip cookies.
- Give your children praise when they succeed while they're cooking with you. If they measure an ingredient correctly with or without your help, let them know you're proud of them so that you're making cooking a positive and fun experience for all of you.
Teaching your children to cook can be a rewarding experience for all of you especially if you as the parent teach them safety in the kitchen along the way.
Next up some tips to help you teach your kids to cook:
- Just like you should praise your kids when they cook with you, it is also ok if they make mistakes. Both are learning opportunities for your child. If your child makes a mistake, it is a perfect time to emphasize the relationship between cause and effect. If the child makes a mistake, correct gently and point out why that particular action won't work in the context of the dish you're cooking together.
- Get your kids involved in all of the steps in the process of cooking. Let your child pick out a recipe, help you shop for and choose ingredients for the dish. Kids get excited with the recipe you're going to cook together if you make it a fun project from beginning to end.
- Your child may get bored if you assign him only one job as you're cooking together. For example, let's say you ask your child to add all of the ingredients using a tablespoon for measuring. While this might be easier for you, remember to change up your kids' assignments as you cook together so that they learn all of the steps in cooking, including choosing the recipe, shopping, cooking and clean-up. All of this is involved in cooking and you should be teaching your child to do all of them, keeping in mind that it may take several cooking sessions to train your children in the various tasks.
- When you're teaching your child how to cook, you're also teaching other skills as well. The kitchen can be an extension of the classroom. Measuring is a mathematical skill and teaching your child to measure out ingredients is reinforcing skills they learn in the classroom.
- After you have been cooking for awhile together, encourage your children to create their own recipes. In this way, you are showing your children that there is creativity in cooking and that, with your supervision, their own creations sparked by their imagination can be edible.
Although your children's safety is important, remember to have fun with them as you cook together! It doesn't matter whether your cake rises or your pancakes stick to the pan, everything will taste great! Helping your kids to become more confident in the kitchen means they're able to spend more time with you, develop life-long skills in the culinary arts and use mathematical skills all at the same time, making cooking together the ideal family activity.