Teaching children to cook and bake provides them with a necessary skill that will serve them throughout their lives. Plus, wouldn’t it be nice to get an edible breakfast in bed? What about a moment of peace and quiet?
The quiet part might be a stretch, but teaching young children to cook is about more than just making tasty meals. It may help them perform better at school, as well as require that they put down the electronics for more than just bath time.
For example, reading recipes improves literacy, measuring ingredients boosts math skills, handling kitchen tools strengthens fine motor skills and learning how different ingredients interact is a fun way to learn science.
Whipping up various tasty dishes also allows your kids to explore their creativity, not to mention help out with all the holiday meal prep this year.
However, cooking can be dangerous if not done correctly. Even an expert chef such as yourself has a few battle scars. (Like that one time you were sure you could pull the casserole out of the oven while checking your email.)
It’s crucial that parents supervise kiddos as your tiny chefs measure, stir, fry and bake. Inappropriate cooking methods can lead to kitchen fires, injuries, and food poisoning.
Food is synonymous with the holiday season, so if you have a wanna-be chef in your household, here’s some advice to help them learn to cook and bake delicious dishes safely — a little mess guaranteed.
Cooking It Up Safely
Before you even pick up a mixing spoon or cut vegetables, teach your kids the right way to prepare to cook with a few simple tips:
- Pull long hair back into a ponytail.
- Avoid loose, flowing clothes or dangling jewelry that can easily catch fire.
- Wash hands with soap and warm water to get rid of the bacteria that can contaminate food.
- Keep raw and prepared foods separate; thoroughly wash cutting boards after each use.
- Clean up spills immediately to avoid injury and re-wash hands.
To make sure those hands are nice and clean, have young children sing their ABC’s as they scrub all parts of their hands as well as their fingernails. Singing the ABC’s requires about 30 seconds, and that’s the perfect length of time to ensure your hands are squeaky clean. Give it a fun twist and let them choose their favorite holiday song to sing as they scrub away. Let kids know it’s important to wash hands again if they sneeze or cough. And they should definitely wash their hands again if they touch their face or hair.
Don’t forget to tell your kids that they should never taste uncooked food. So even though that raw cookie dough for the snowman sugar cookies smells absolutely divine, they should avoid the temptation of sneaking a spoonful. Eating food that contains unpasteurized eggs or uncooked flour can make you sick. Make sure you set the right example and don’t get caught sneaking any yourself!
Eager little hands might forget to use potholders to handle baking trays, casserole dishes, pots, and pans. To avoid burns, show kids how to use oven mitts or pot holders to safely remove dishes from the oven so they don’t get burned. Kids should also make it a habit to turn pot handles away from the front of the stove. You don’t want people to get burned if they accidentally brush against it and make it fall.
Using Utensils and Small Appliances
Kids also need instruction on how to use cooking utensils and small appliances in a safe manner.
For example, before handing your 5-year old a kitchen or chef knife, that pint-sized cook needs to practice with a plastic knife first. Show him or her the proper way to hold it so they don’t accidentally cut themselves or others while chopping veggies or trimming fat from meat.
Even after they learn how to use it, keep dangerous utensils and appliances away from small hands that might get the bright idea to surprise you with a holiday treat or meal.
Children should never cook in the kitchen without asking your permission first. Young kids need supervision in case any emergencies arise. Kitchen fires are a potential danger every time you fire up the stove, so in order to protect your home from a fire you should:
- Test fire detectors each month to ensure they’re in good working order.
- Never leave the kitchen and your kids unattended while cooking.
- Keep a fire extinguisher nearby, and learn how to use it (never use water).
- Have baking soda on hand to put out a fire in a pinch.
- Instruct kids that they should get an adult if there’s a kitchen fire.
- Teach children how to dial 9-1-1.
If you have miniature budding chefs in your home, provide them with the education they need to cook up scrumptious meals while staying safe at the same time. Preparing holiday meals is a great way let your children be involved during this busy season, and you’ll surely appreciate the help too.