Getting started in the kitchen can be child’s play
Prepping, mixing, baking and, of course, tasting: you can learn and experience quite a lot in the kitchen. Letting your kids help out in the kitchen prepares them for a lifetime of deliciousness. But to make sure that nothing stands in the way of having fun in the kitchen, a few things should be kept in mind.
Kids can enjoy cooking just as much as adults do. Those that start early with a bit of cooking and baking can learn a whole lot about ingredients, preparation methods, and, of course, about how much work and love goes into making a dish. But before children are allowed to help in the kitchen, the tasks, kitchen workspace and everyone involved need to be prepared.
Cooking with children requires patience and time above all else. This means it’s better to bake a cake on a relaxed weekend afternoon than during the week when everyone’s stressed and tired. If you need to prepare something especially quickly, it’s better for kids not to help. Little accidents can happen easier than you think in the heat of the moment.
It’s safe to assume that when cooking with small children, things are going to get messy. Soup will spill while it’s being stirred, ingredients will end up on the floor and by the end of the whole process, the entire kitchen will likely be decorated with small handprints. To make sure the mess doesn’t get the better of you, remember how much children learn in the kitchen that they’ll surely end up using later in life. The information they gain now about ingredients and kitchen tools will serve as the foundation for a varied and balanced diet when they become adults.
The fun of cooking starts before everyone’s together in the kitchen. Picking out a recipe and buying the ingredients is also part of it. Before prepping the ingredients can begin, the adults and children must go over all the kitchen rules. Everyone should agree to wash their hands before getting started, as well as discussing how to handle hot and sharp objects in the kitchen. These should be reviewed and explained a few times before starting.
Each child should have their own cooking outfit and work station where they can use kid-friendly kitchen tools to slice, stir, or knead. The responsibilities given to them should be age-appropriate and should be explained by the parents first. Two-year-olds can sort out a few berries, but eight-year-olds can weigh and mix ingredients themselves. It’s important that these responsibilities don’t take too long and that they’re varied. Since each child develops differently, parents should always look to see which kitchen duties their child is ready to take on.
Of course, children should always observe how adults perform tasks in the kitchen. That’s when questions come up that, when answered, can help prepare children for further challenges in the kitchen: Does the water always have to boil before you throw the pasta in the pot? Children are good observers and extremely curious. That’s why it’s easy to include them in the entire cooking process as onlookers. That’s also how they learn that cleaning up and washing up are also part of cooking – just like the process of going shopping for ingredients before.
Hot oil and water, sharp knives and plenty of kitchen appliances are common sources of danger in a kitchen. That’s why it isn’t only important for all those participating to follow the agreed upon rules, but also for the kitchen itself to be prepared for the small chefs. Especially those cooking with small children should install a protective barrier on the stove, as well as secure doors and drawers with extra stoppers. In addition, you should try to cook as much as possible using the rear hot plates and to make sure to turn the handles of pans toward the back.
As a safety precaution for everyone participating, electronic kitchen appliances should be placed far away from sources of water. If you have a dishwasher, it’s a good idea to make it a habit to put knives with the blade facing down and to immediately close the door thereafter. Of course, parents should still keep their eye on the children, even with these precautions in place. But at least they help to mitigate some dangers.
Consciously experiencing ingredients prepares children for cooking in the kitchen too. This means that children pick a few of their favourite ingredients and try to experience them using as many of their senses as possible: How does an apple smell? How does the skin of a cucumber feel? How does it sound when you slice through bread with a breadknife? Have fun discovering!
Practical and ready for printing, we’ve prepared a cooking 101 PDF for little chefs:
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