The following post is from Dan Gilbert of Primrose Schools:
“The most popular place in the house for families to gather is the kitchen. It’s a place for learning and sharing, where the family can enjoy quality time. Children can also develop a sense of responsibility by participating in daily tasks.”
As the most popular place in the house, the kitchen can also be the most dangerous place, especially for younger children. Not only because it’s the most commonly used room in the house, but because the loud noises, delicious smells and the curiosity about what goes on make the kitchen one of the places that kids want to be.
However, the potential hazards do not need to exclude children from activity in the kitchen. Instead, involve children with cooking and baking to not only be able to spend extra quality time with them, but also to be able to teach them valuable skills.
This can all be done in a safe environment by following this simple “recipe”:
- Ground Rules
- Engaging Activity
- Build Skills
- Have Fun
Set Ground Rules.
By establishing ground rules and reviewing them with your child prior to being in the kitchen — every time — you will be teaching your child responsibility and safety.
This includes: washing your hands before and after being in the kitchen to stop the spread of germs; which items are safe to touch and which are not; and what is acceptable to use and what isn’t. These should all be discussed on a regular basis, but it’s still important to supervise children in the kitchen!
Engage Your Child Meaningfully.
Simple jobs like mixing batter, rolling dough, and measuring water can boost a child’s confidence and give them a sense of accomplishment. Tearing lettuce, adding sprinkles to sweets, and shaking Parmesan onto pasta are also safe, satisfying tasks children can easily accomplish.
Even very young children can get involved – give them some pots, pans, and wooden spoons so they can pretend to cook with you or use them for music-making. Keeping your child engaged in some sort of activity will give them a feeling of success and keep them interested in accomplishing the task at hand.
Build Up Skills Step by Step.
Many essential skills can be taught to children in the kitchen while they practice skills that have already been learned. For example, following recipes, counting, measuring, and adding.
Young children can practice their hand and eye coordination by mixing batter or pouring water. Older children can learn new tasks, like cutting with a knife. For this make sure you start off with a dull knife and have them cut softer items like bread or cheese. Gradually advance them to using a sharp knife for harder foods like veggies and fruit. Make sure your child masters the task at hand before you advance them on to a more difficult task.
Keep it Fun.
Most importantly, have fun with your child. The “oopsies” moments are bound to happen, but they do when the children aren’t even around! Cleaning up can be just as important a lesson as actually cooking. Let your child retry a task if at first they do not succeed. And definitely do not stress over the little things!
When your meal is complete, be sure to compliment your sous chef on a job well done. Offer them the first taste of whatever you cooked together. Ask your child what they would like to make next time and let them experiment as well.
What are your favorite ways to involve kids in your kitchen?
Dan Gilbert is the Communications Coordinator for Primrose Schools. For over 25 years, they have helped individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early child care services and education. Dan writes on a variety of topics from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteer service.