Cooking with Children: A Recipe for Kitchen Safety & Fun
Bubbling pots, sizzling skillets and delicious smells can make the kitchen a fascinating – yet dangerous – place for young children. However, the potential hazards don’t have to keep children out of the kitchen. Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of education for Primrose Child Care Facilities, says kitchen time can be a great way for families to regain some lost, but valuable, family time.
“The kitchen is often the most popular place in the house for families to gather. It’s a place for learning and sharing, where the family can enjoy quality time. Children can also develop a sense of responsibility by participating in daily tasks,” said Dr. Zurn.
Parents can keep the kitchen safe and fun for children by following this simple recipe:
- Engage your child meaningfully. Think about what tasks your child can do independently. Completing simple jobs like mixing batter, rolling dough and measuring water can boost a child’s sense of pride and accomplishment. Tearing lettuce, adding sprinkles to sweets and shaking parmesan onto pasta are other safe, satisfying tasks children can easily accomplish. Even very young children can get involved – give them some pots, pans and wooden spoons so they can pretend to cook with you or use them for music-making. The tuneful accompaniment will let you know they’re safely engaged and give them a way to feel like they’re helping too.
- Set some ground rules. Children need supervision when they’re in the kitchen, so establish a list of basic safety rules and make sure children are always within sight. Teach children to wash their hands before and after handling food to avoid spreading germs. Discuss on a regular basis what’s safe to touch and what’s not. Make sure the handles of pots and pans are turned inward on the stovetop so you and older children don’t accidentally bump them and spill hot liquids or food.
- Build up skills step-by-step. Children can develop many essential skills in the kitchen, such as following recipes or counting slices of bread. For more advanced skills, start slowly and have your child master easy tasks before attempting harder ones. Teach older children to use a knife by starting them off with cutting soft items like cheese and cooked noodles with a dull spreader. As your child’s coordination develops, they can move on to slicing or sawing vegetables and fruit with a plastic knife.
- Keep it fun. Cooking can be messy even without children, so don’t stress over the “oops” moments. If the cookie batter ends up on the floor instead of the baking sheet, offer some guidance and let your child try again. You can make cleaning it up fun too!
When your meal is complete, be sure to compliment your sous chef on a job well done. Offer them the first taste of whatever you cooked together and ask them what you should make next time. Bon appétit!