Even when they’re very young, some kids display a natural knack for food prep. If you’re lucky enough to be the parent of an aspiring cook or baker, you’ve got to nurture that talent! This post is all about teaching your kids to cook – where to start, simple recipes to try out, and how to set some solid rules for kitchen etiquette.
Start With Food Safety
Once your kids are old enough to hang out in the kitchen with you and do their own thing, it’s the perfect time to teach them about food safety.
Knowing how to handle raw ingredients, understanding the basics of safely using utensils, and keeping your hands clean are all food prep essentials that kids can pick up at a young age. When your kids reach their early elementary school years, they’re most likely ready for a crash course in food safety.
Some of the basic points to cover when explaining food safety to your kids are:
- Washing your hands before working in the kitchen. Teach your kids to use warm, soapy water to scrub for 20 seconds or more. A great way to keep the 20-second rule in your kids’ memories is to explain that that’s two times through singing “happy birthday.”
- Being careful with raw meat, seafood, poultry, and eggs. Make sure your kids know that it’s important to keep these uncooked ingredients separate from everything else you’re preparing, as well as to wash their hands after touching them.
- Knowing the right temperature to cook at, plus safety around hot surfaces like the stovetop and oven. Don’t be fooled by your kids’ small stature – they’re whip-smart, and they can quickly pick up on the need to be careful when the stove or oven is on.
- Understanding the importance of putting cooked food in the fridge or freezer to keep it from going bad. This element in the food safety rules also pertains to knowing when food is too old to be safe to eat!
There you have it – the kid-friendly rules of food safety! These points are a great place to start with teaching your kids to cook. You can even write them down and pin them to your fridge for an extra reminder.
What Can My Toddler Do in the Kitchen?
If you have a child who is between three and five years old, they’re still welcome in a safe, supervised kitchen environment. While toddlers may not be quite old enough to hold their own with the more complex elements of food prep, there’s still plenty that you can include your youngsters in while you cook or bake.
When your toddler is in the kitchen, try including them in the fun by inviting them to:
- Help you wash ingredients in the sink. Fruits and veggies should always be rinsed before use – as you know – and asking your toddler to handle the washing duty is a great way to teach them this key cooking principle at an early age.
- Help you clean up after cooking or baking. While toddlers are too little to wash heavy pots and pans, they can still help you out by using a small broom to sweep, wiping countertops with a rag, or just keeping you company.
What Can My Six to Ten Year Old Do in the Kitchen?
Once your kids are a little older, they’re ready to start handling more complex food prep tasks. If you have a child who’s between six and eight, they’re ready to:
- Crack eggs into a bowl and beat them with a whisk to make scrambled eggs or omelettes. This is a great task to assign to a younger kid since it helps them feel involved in your cooking efforts in a big way.
- Peel fruits, vegetables, and potatoes with a peeler. It might be a little too early in the game to let your six to eight year old use a knife in the kitchen. However, a peeler is a fantastic food prep tool to start them off with. Teaching your kids good peeling technique will set them up to be efficient, creative cooks in the future. Plus, having an extra set of hands handling all that peeling helps you get your recipe completed sooner!
- Major cleanup duties. By the time your kids are between the ages of six and ten, they’re ready to be a big help after a meal. If you’ve just finished eating breakfast, lunch, or dinner with your kids, it’s a great time to assemble a cleanup crew and start tackling the mess.
Kids this age can load the dishwasher up with dirty dishes, handwash dishes in the sink, sweep up the kitchen floor, wipe down counters, and more!
If you have multiple kids, cleanup can go by very quickly. It’s like having your own personal cooking pit crew!
- Plating. This is one of the most fun aspects of cooking and baking to teach your kids – presentation. Plating is the subtle art of serving food in a way that makes it look as appealing and appetizing as possible. After you finish cooking, challenge your kids to help you with the plating, asking them for their input on how each of the elements of a meal should be positioned in a dish.
This year range is the perfect age to teach your kids about garnishes, condiments, and the other components of a meal that can be used to spice things up.
Once your kids reach nine or ten, they’re ready to start doing some cooking food prep on their own. However, there are still some tasks that you’ll want to be in the kitchen for, including:
- Cutting fruits or veggies
- Boiling pasta or rice
- Using the oven
Want to Find Some Great Recipes for You and Your Kids?
If you’re looking for fun (and delicious) meals to make with your kids’ help, make sure to check out jow.com/cooking.