Cooking and baking can be a real joy. And you want to share that joy with children. Learning to cook can boost a child's confidence, help them apply simple math and logic, and encourage them to try new fruits and vegetables that make up a healthy diet. Some folks think you can start a child out in the kitchen before they’re even three!
People who know how to cook from scratch are much less likely to develop the myriad of health problems that come from eating fast and processed foods: obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, to name the most prominent. But children need to learn a lot of things about food and kitchen safety that you take for granted. After all, we’re playing with knives and fire here.
Start with safety
Start any cooking lesson with safety tips. Point to all the potentially hazardous things in the kitchen and emphasize that they must be handled with caution. Make sure your child knows the names of all the things you are using that day. Show your child how heat conducts by putting a pan on the stove and having them touch it before it gets too hot.
There’s still a good chance your son or daughter will need to learn about hot pans from experience, so also show them where the first aid kit is and how to use it.
An oven mitt is the best way to protect your hand when handling hot pots and pans, so be sure you have enough mitts on-hand. Always use the mitts in front of your child, even if you just use your shirt to take things out of the oven when no one is looking. Teach your son or daughter not to allow any fabrics near an open flame or burner. This includes loose clothing.
If you don’t have a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, you should install them before teaching your child to cook. You and your child should test the smoke detector at least once a week. It can be a fun game for your child since they’ll get to push a button and create a loud noise, so it’s a great way to get them excited about kitchen and fire safety.
Make sure you both know how to use a fire extinguisher. Many fire extinguishers cannot be tested without losing the canned pressure that makes them effective, so buy two extinguishers and practice with one of them outside.
Knife skills -- Dos and Don’ts
Don’t start any child out with a butcher knife, no matter how responsible they are. Instead, start them out with a plastic serrated knife and give them something soft to cut, like a cucumber or cooked pasta. Show them how to hold the knife: point down and facing away from them. Ensure that they can cut without putting the non-cutting hand in harm’s way.
Do teach your child how to pass a knife, slowly and with the hilt toward the receiver. When they have mastered all these skills, graduate them to a paring knife. Don’t give them a big knife until they have strong enough eye-hand coordination and solid hand strength.
Don’t stop the safety lesson with fire and knives. Your child must also learn what happens to something that goes into the garbage disposal or blender. Show them the carrot before and after it goes in the food processor. Kids should also know that electric appliances and cords need to be kept dry and not submerged in or sprayed with water.
Letting kids explore the kitchen and experiment with recipes is a great learning experience and an excellent way for you to share quality time. Once you’ve laid down the ground rules, you two will have a blast!
Courtsey of Daniel Sherwin
Photo courtesy of Pixabay