Safe and Fun Ways to Cook With Children: From Toddler to Teen

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Teaching your children to cook is a valuable lesson; it will help them to grow into self-sustained and responsible teenagers, as well as giving them the skills they need to cook proper food. Ask them to help out in the kitchen, and they’ll probably find it fun and exciting - but the kitchen can be a dangerous place. Enjoy the help of your little assistants with these ideas on how to make your kitchen a safe and friendly zone.

Make it safe

With children in the kitchen, it’s important to think about safety first - especially when you have pots boiling, oil splattering, and sharp objects in every drawer. It’s enough for any parent to feel overly cautious about allowing them into the kitchen - let alone handle a knife. Don’t worry, you can do a lot to make it a safe place, and if you feel like your child is too young for cutting still, there are a lot of other things they can help you with.

Always supervise a child when he or she is cutting something; this might mean that both parents step in, or that you take off your chef’s chat and put on the supervisor's hat for a bit. Any spillages should be wiped immediately to prevent small feet from slipping and falling. To make sure nobody’s pumping into a hot pot or pan, always remember to turn the handle inwards towards the counter. Here is a comprehensive guide on kitchen safety for parents.

Make it practical

Even though you want your kids to learn how to cook, you might feel like your kitchen isn’t properly suited for it. Maybe because it’s too small and you need your space - which is understandable. If you’re in the middle of a kitchen remodel, consider investing a bit in one of those kitchen islands. It’s a great space for your kids to chop, rinse or mash, and you get to enjoy the full counter space.

In case you’re not planning on a refurbishment anytime soon, think about getting a piece of child-height furniture, like a small stand. You can place it in a safe corner, away from all the hustle and bustle of a hot kitchen.

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Cooking with toddlers

From your child is around 18 months, they can take their first steps to becoming your kitchen assistant. At this age, it’s great to let them scrub a few potatoes, tear greens into pieces, pluck herbs, rinse fruits and vegetables and help you with mashing. Just having them in the kitchen to observe is also a good idea, especially if they’re not old enough for plucking and washing yet.

Cooking with young children

When he or she is around 4-5, they can be involved a bit more in the actual cooking. Let them cut soft food with a plastic knife, such as mushrooms and herbs, load the dishwasher and wipe surfaces, peel eggs, and help you with kneading the dough.

A year or two later, and your child will be ready to help you out by the stove and be involved with the more complicated tasks. You decide how much responsibility you trust them with at this stage - just remember that you should still supervise them in the kitchen, and let them unleash their creativity.

Hopefully, by the time they grow into teenagers, they’ll be able to prepare more than a frozen pizza - and you can pride yourself on a job well done. 

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