I wish I could pinpoint the moment where my son first entered the cooking life in my kitchen. Perhaps we were whipping up pancakes for breakfast or maybe it was an evening where he used the salad whirler to drain all the water from the lettuce for salad. It’s become such an ingrained part of our daily life that I can barely remember a time when Will didn’t help.
Whatever the case, in his nearly four years in my kitchen, Will has learned to cut (a soft item like avocado) with a butter knife, use the food processor to make a quick and smooth guacamole and to operate the stand mixer. He understands basic safety rules and follows them. And he can suggest new pairings for foods with confidence. Did I mention that he’s only four?
Meanwhile, my two-year-old daughter really wants to contribute too and has to some degree. She can add ingredients, stir easy things and is a master at unloading the dishwasher (with my help, of course). She also understands the basic safety rules.
Safety is the cornerstone of indoctrinating your children to the kitchen and must always come first. So, before you start cooking with kids, make sure they know the basic rules of the kitchen. What are they?
Basic Principles of Kitchen Safety for Kids
- Beware of anything hot – The word ‘hot’ should be a clue to step away quickly from the oven, stove or wherever. For young children, explaining that hot things can burn you, leaving painful boo-boos is a good way to teach this safety lesson. For the youngest of kids though, it may take a several reminders before they learn that when you say ‘hot,’ they should move away fast.
- Ask, and then do – After a few times helping in the kitchen, a child may feel comfortable enough to start reaching for utensils, ingredients and more. But it’s important that the adult takes the lead on things like this. So, teaching the child to ask first is important. (This applies to everything from cutlery to kitchen gadgets to adding ingredients).
- Sharp! – Much like the hot lesson above, children need to understand to be weary of sharp objects including knives, scissors and skewers. Explain that these items need to be used in a certain way by an adult only. If pressed, then explain what sort of a boo-boo they can cause.
Sarah Walker Caron is a cookbook author, freelance writer and founder of Sarah’s Cucina Bella. She is the author of four cookbooks including The Super Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and One-Pot Pasta, both from Rockridge Press. A single mother to a tween and a teen, Sarah loves nightly family dinners, juicy tomatoes plucked fresh from the vine and lazy days on the beach. She also adores reading and traveling.