Young children love to be involved in whatever Mama and Daddy are doing. That includes helping in the kitchen while meals are being prepared. Even though they may not know how to cook, there are easy things young children can do to begin learning how to cook.
Before you think about teaching your child to cook at all, remember to teach them safety rules for the kitchen. It’s important that they know what tools they can use without help, and which ones require a parent or older child’s help. You also want to remind children that whenever they are going to prepare food they must wash their hands with soap and water first.
Begin by deciding what you’ll make together. Gather everything you need – all of the ingredients, spoons, cups, bowls, or whatever else is required – and have enough for both of you to work. Have everything ready so you can begin work as soon as you’ve both washed your hands.
Your young child may not be able to reach the cabinet or table that you’re working at, so consider creating a work area on a child-size table. Put a tablecloth or newspapers down to help to make cleaning up easier.
Explain what you’re going to do for the entire recipe before you give them the first ingredient. Then you demonstrate how to measure liquid and solid ingredients, stir, beat, peel, or whatever the task is. Demonstrating what to do will help children who are visual rather than auditory in their learning. When they are actually able to do the task, this will help solidify their learning.
Here are some things young children can do to help you in the kitchen:
- Slice softer foods with a plastic knife. This will enable them to learn the process of cutting without worrying about them being hurt.
- Allow them to tear the lettuce for salads. They may also be able to pull apart broccoli and cauliflower florets.
- Mix batter or multiple ingredients by shaking a container with a screw-on lid or by using a spoon or whisk with a bowl.
- Place foods on cool baking sheets or in cool pots.
- Add water to pots for cooking. Use measuring cups or spoons when possible.
- Open cans, packages, boxes, etc.
You’ll also want to teach your child the importance of cleaning up while you’re cooking. Instead of leaving everything until you’re finished, have them put dirty dishes into a sink of hot, soapy water. You can also teach them to put their ingredients away as they are used and wash off the surfaces used while cooking.
It’s important to teach young children to cook and you can find easy cooking activities to get them started. Remember that they want to be with you and to learn from you. Take advantage of this desire while they’re young; they’ll likely outgrow their willingness to help soon enough.