Have you ever been preparing lunch or dinner and found yourself with a special guest asking to help? Whether it was the delicious smell or the pride of having helped prepare a family dinner, something brought your little one in to help with this task. Don’t take this lightly – there’s tremendous benefit to having your child help you in the kitchen. Not only is cooking a basic life skill that can be taken into adulthood, but it helps them build confidence, introduces them to the world of healthy eating and creates a special family bond.
Here are some tips for getting your little sous chef comfortable and in the kitchen:
- Teach good hygiene. First things first, show your child the proper hygiene associated with cooking a meal. Wash your hands together (general rule of thumb: wash for 30 seconds, or the entire length of the “Happy Birthday” song) and pull long hair back into a ponytail.
- Emphasize kitchen safety. Explain to young children that they are not to use sharp knives or scissors without your supervision. Tools like wooden spoons and spatulas are fair game!
- Start with measurements and pours. Ease younger kids into the art of cooking by having them watch you measure ingredients, then allow them to pour those ingredients into a bowl. Allow older children to measure varying amounts of flour, sugar, rice, etc in a measuring cup. This is an opportunity to strengthen their mathematical skills by learning their measurements and conversions – this also shows how the math they’re learning in school can be used every day.
- Rinse fruits and veggies. Show your three year old how to clean fruits and veggies, then give them the responsibility of washing off foods like broccoli, carrots, apples and grapes. From this, they will develop healthy habits as it pertains to the handling of their food.
- Peel, cut and roll. Children between the ages of four and five are strengthening their motor skills, so they can be given responsibilities like peeling and cracking eggs, whisking and stirring liquids, using a plastic knife to slice soft foods and rolling out dough.
- Keep it clean. Children of all ages can help with kitchen clean up before and after the meal. Smaller children can help sweep crumbs off the floor and wipe up spills. Older children can use nontoxic cleaning materials to clean countertops and wash dishes or load dishes into the dishwasher after the meal.