Cooking with Kids | Age Appropriate Tasks for Small Chefs
Cooking (and eating) together as a family is one of the fundamental joys of parenthood. It’s a time to bond and a time for children to discover new tastes and textures while learning a valuable life skill. And even toddlers can get in on the action. Here, we take a look at age-appropriate chow-time chores for children.
Tiny tots are just developing fine motor skills, which makes them perfect candidates for stirring batter and rinsing fresh fruits and vegetables. Other fun kitchen activities for this age group include:
- Pouring premeasured liquids
- Using biscuit or cookie cutters
- Cutting strawberries or other soft fruits with a butter knife
This is prime time for children to be included in household chores, especially at mealtime. 6- to 8-year-olds have better manual dexterity and will delight in a few independent activities such as:
- Whisking eggs
- Using a manual can opener
- Melting chocolate or butter in the microwave
- Measuring and pouring liquids
- Frying eggs
- Boiling pasta
9- to 12-year-olds should be confident enough by now to read and follow simple to intermediate recipes and, under close supervision, use adult kitchen knives and small appliances. This age group should have a full understanding of fire safety (more on that later) and the importance of operating in a clean and sanitary environment. Additional skills preteens may practice include:
- Trimming, slicing, and peeling hard and soft vegetables
- Removing food from the oven
- Utilizing meat thermometers and kitchen timers
- Baking with yeast
- Steaming and roasting vegetables
- Mixing batter and independently cooking pancakes
- Blending and mixing using countertop appliances
The 13- to 16-year-old crowd should be able to fend for themselves in the kitchen with little close supervision. This age group should be ready to advance their culinary skills by experimenting with new recipes and cooking methods. Before graduating high school, teenagers should be able to effectively:
- Make a full meal
- Chop, dice, and mince with sharp knives
- Bread and fry chicken, pork, and beef
- Bake complicated yeast rolls and pastries
- Understand how to safely use food slicers
- Use and clean charcoal and gas grills
It’s never too early to teach children kitchen safety and fire prevention. Tom Lewis, a RedFin agent and former volunteer firefighter, notes that the single most important thing homeowners can do to keep their family safe is to test smoke detectors regularly. He additionally suggests setting a timer anytime the oven is in use. All kitchens should be outfitted with a fire extinguisher. Knives, small appliances, and cleaning chemicals should be kept well out of reach until childhood curiosity is no longer a concern.
In an emergency
The Consumer Protection Safety Commission report that hundreds of deaths each year are associated with kitchen appliances and housewares – the vast majority are fire-related. There is no way to avoid all accidents or injuries related to cooking. Teach your children what to do in case of an emergency.
Apply gentle pressure to stop the bleeding then clean the wound and cover with antibiotic ointment and a sterile bandage. If bleeding does not stop after several minutes of continuous pressure, seek immediate emergency medical care.
Use a well-fitting lid to cover any pots or pans with contents engulfed in flames. Do not pour water on a grease fire as oil can float on water, causing the flames to spread quickly and unpredictably. Use a fire extinguisher immediately and get out of the house if the fire continues to grow. This kid-friendly HowCast video outlines how to properly use a fire extinguisher.
Minor burns are common kitchen hazard and may be treated by holding the area under cool water for 10 to 15 minutes. Burns should be covered with sterile gauze. The St. Louis Children’s Hospital advises immediate emergency medical care for blisters more than two inches in diameter or burns that result in charred or white skin.
For more information, check out this kitchen safety infographic on the Betty Crocker website. But remember, when in doubt, get out or have it checked out. No pizza, Pop-Tart, or pudding is worth risking your child’s safety.