The Top 5 Things to Teach your
Kids about Cooking

by Benni Jenyfari

One of the more pleasant childhood memories are those times spent in the kitchen helping mom with the cooking. Most children love to cook and teaching them how is one of those enjoyable experiences in life that you can all share. And while it is fun for them to stir the cake mix and lick the spoon or beaters, when it comes to preparing more advanced recipes there is a serious side that must be considered if your child is to really experience the joys of cooking.

A few simple lessons will ensure that they are kept safe in the kitchen environment and will help protect them from accidents while they master the joys of cooking.

1. Safety

Safety is the number one most important factor to teach your children before they even start to learn to cook. Of course what and how you teach them will depend on the age of the child as different rules apply at different stages of their life. Here are a few things you should consider:

a. Oven and Cook Top Safety – Apart from the need to teach your child about the obvious safety issues such as staying clear of a hot oven, they also need to learn about turning pot handles inwards on the cook top to prevent pots from being accidentally knocked over and also how to use oven mitts to pick up hot pots and pans.

b. Food Safety – Children need to be taught about hygiene when handling food and the need to wash their hands so as not to contaminate the food they are preparing. They also need to know what foods should be stored in the refrigerator and what foods can be left out.

Another important aspect of cooking is the danger of cross-contamination of uncooked meats with other foods so they need to be taught not to use a knife or chopping board that has been used to cut up raw meats, on other foods until they have been thoroughly washed.

c. Knife Safety – Very young children should not be allowed to use sharp knives but once a child is old enough to start chopping and cutting up food then ensure that you teach them how to chop correctly to avoid any nasty cuts to little fingers. They should also be taught the dangers of walking around with a knife in their hands.

2. Preparation

It is worth instilling in your child the importance of good preparation when cooking. One of the first steps to teach is how important it is to have all the ingredients set out on the counter before they even start to cook. Then let them know how easy it will be to prepare the dish if all the ingredients are cut, sifted, measured and weighed before they even start to cook. This will ensure that they do not have to rush around trying to find a missing ingredient once they have things boiling and cooking away.

3. How to read a recipe

Reading a recipe may be simple to someone who has been cooking for years but to a child this is a whole new experience. Choose a simple recipe to start with and explain the abbreviations for weights and measures such as tsp (teaspoon) and tbl (tablespoon) and how they should always read the recipe through before even starting to prepare the dish. If your child is old enough to read, have them read out the instructions as you follow the recipe and explain why each step is carried out in the order it is written.

4. The Basics

Children need to learn the different cooking terminology and the different methods of cooking such as boiling, sautéing, frying, baking, roasting and so on. They also need to know about the differences in cookware so that when you ask them to get a saucepan out of the cupboard they won’t bring you a fry pan instead.

Do remember though that this is meant to be an enjoyable experience for the two of you so take your time and don’t overwhelm your child with too much information at each session.

5. Cleaning Up

Children need to know that there is more to being in the kitchen than just the fun part of cooking. Get them into the habit of cleaning up as they go so there is no big mess left to clean up at the end. Make the cleaning up a fun experience so that they will be happy to help.

And finally…

Always remember to keep the recipes within the child’s capabilities, so where a very young child will be content to ice a cake and decorate it with candy sprinkles, an older child will be ready to try cheese or scrambled eggs on toast or perhaps even something more advanced.

There are an enormous number of easy to follow children’s recipe books available to help you and your child increase their culinary skills. It is worth taking the time while they are young to get your child interested in cooking. You never know, they might just be the next Rachael Ray or Jamie Oliver!

Article provided courtesy of Only Cookware - a resource for all clad cookware, stainless steel pots, and cast iron cookware sets.