Friday, November 18, 2011

Cooking with Kiddos

I was recently approached by Kathleen to do a guest post on my blog and when I read what she wrote I was all for it.  There is something I want to be sure of, Leyton knows how to cook.  I want him to be able to put together nice meals, bake, etc.  Maybe he won't love it, maybe it won't be a passion...I just want to know that he knows how to make more than a box of mac and cheese or something that gets thrown in the microwave.  I'm already bringing him into the kitchen with me as much as I can, and he even has his own kitchen to play in.  Right now, we're just working on getting him to understand what is "hot" but I can't wait to teach him more and I will definitely use Kathleen's tips!

Cook More than Just Dinner as a Family
Article submitted by Kathleen Thomas on behalf of Primrose Schools

Children love to help their parents, especially in the kitchen. Preparing a meal with your children offers valuable together time, while providing them with a sense of accomplishment. The presence of sharp objects and hot surfaces, however, may also prove dangerous to young chefs. When cooking with children, always consider safety first. With a few precautions and age appropriate guidelines, parents can invite their little helpers to participate in this enjoyable, rewarding experience.

Consider the kind of tools, utensils and cooking methods that are best suited for children to handle, according to their ages. Detect any items that may pose a threat and move them out of reach. Cooking methods that require things like sharp knives or boiling water should be done ahead of time by the adult. Inform the child of items that are off limits, such as burner knobs and processor blades. Make sure they understand the reasons these things may be dangerous. Write a list of these items, along with all of your kitchen's safety rules and post them on the fridge.

To save time and insure safety, do the complicated and time-consuming work before the child enters the kitchen. Tasks such as, slicing, dicing, peeling and grating require sharp instruments and would take a child too long to accomplish. Casseroles that require pasta or rice should be cooked, drained and cooled enough for a child to handle. Open cans and discard all jagged edges.

For children who aren’t old enough to participate in oven or stovetop cooking, consider simple foods that don’t require heat. Stacking cheese slices on sandwich bread or stirring the pancake mix is enough to get a beginner involved. Think of simple tasks for the little assistant, such as spinning the lettuce leaves or pushing the microwave buttons. As the child becomes comfortable in the kitchen, teach her new skills. Together you and your child will know when she is able to handle bigger tools, harder tasks and more ingredients. Encourage her to do a little bit more each time, under your guidance, until she is ready to do it on her own.  In doing so you are preparing your children for being comfortable on their own in a day care or child care setting.

Because most of the work involves simple tools and easy to mix ingredients, baking is a wonderful means of early introduction to cooking. Kids enjoy the job of pouring ingredients into one big bowl, and are excited and proud to operate the mixer. Combine those duties with the use of fun tools like measuring spoons and the additions of sweet ingredients, and what’s not for a child to love about baking? As an added bonus, they learn about measurements and timing.

Forget about the mess. Children are going to be messy in the kitchen and becoming upset may only discourage their desire to participate. Allow them to enjoy the process and accept that there will be spills, splatters and mishaps along the way. Just wipe up the bigger spills as you go along and remember that it’s just a part of the process. Enjoy the memories you are creating now. Chances are, you won't even remember the cleaning up part later.

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