Few skills contribute to a child’s growth and self-reliance more than learning to cook and bake. It’s a valuable tool for growing a youngster’s confidence, a means of self-expression, and a creative outlet. Cooking can also help your child learn basic math skills and how to function safely in the kitchen. But bear in mind that teaching a child to cook takes time and requires patience. It’s important to prepare for the unexpected, particularly as your children start to feel more confident. Be encouraging and supportive and willing to help them try new things.
The first rule of food safety should be to wash hands thoroughly using soap and warm water. Teach them why it’s important not to lick their fingers during food preparation or lick and reuse utensils, and that they shouldn’t lick the bowl or taste uncooked food. Be careful about separating raw and cooked foods, and don’t place cooked food on surfaces that held raw or uncooked food. Explain that cooking food at the correct temperature is also important for food safety and that undercooked food can make people sick.
Microwaves, toaster ovens, and ovens are essential kitchen tools, but they can be dangerous if used inappropriately. Kids need to be taught never to put anything metallic in a microwave, a toaster, or toaster oven. Exercise caution around an open oven door, which can cause a serious burn, and always unplug the food processor or mixer when not in use.
Hair and Clothing
If your kids have long hair, show them how to pull it back so that it won’t get caught in tools or come in contact with food. There should be no dangling jewelry or loose clothing that could get tangled in a mixer or come in contact with a burner. If your children like to go barefoot, explain that this can be dangerous if hot liquid, a knife, a fork, or something heavy gets dropped.
Hot and Sharp Stuff
Heat and sharp objects are two of the most dangerous elements in any kitchen environment. Make sure there are enough hot pads or oven mitts within easy reach for taking food out of the oven or microwave. Knife safety is another very important kitchen lesson for kids to learn. Explain that knives should be kept sharp because they work much better that way, but that they must be used with great care. Teach kids to cut away from their hands and fingers, and consider having them practice using plastic knives before letting them start with the real thing during food preparation. Avoid cuts by never placing sharp knives in soapy water with a lot of other objects, and make sure they’re placed point down in the dishwasher.
Instruct your children to tell an adult right away if a fire starts and never to throw water on a kitchen fire. Instead, use baking soda or some material that will smother the flames. Keep a lid on pans and pots as much as possible, which will remove oxygen and reduce the likelihood of a fire. Always keep a functional fire extinguisher nearby, instruct your children in how to use one, and tell them to call 911 and leave the house right away if a fire gets out of control. Take steps to child-proof your kitchen by keeping burner covers in place when not in use.
Knowing how to cook and use kitchen tools safely should be a part of every child’s education. Cooking is a skill that instills an important sense of achievement and the reassurance that they can do many of the same things their parents can do. Just make sure an adult or older child is on hand in case kids need help or run into trouble.
Guest article by Alexis Hall