Having children offer hands-on help as assistants in the kitchen provides valuable lessons. Here again, you have the opportunity to use time in the kitchen to discuss healthy food choices, which reinforces what they are learning in school. The work in the kitchen also allows children to learn about addition and measuring by working with recipes and ingredients, which reinforces lessons learned in the grocery store. Even the youngest child can practice measuring flour, salt or sugar, and while the first few tries are likely to be sloppy, eventually kids will learn to be more proficient.
Ideas for novice cooks
Try the following ideas to get kids started in the kitchen.
- Emphasize cleanliness, so be sure all helpers wash their hands.
- Put a piece of waxed paper on the counter before allowing your child to measure an ingredient. That way, any spills can be returned to the container.
- When preparing Peanut Blossoms, your kids can unwrap the candy kisses ahead of time. Just make sure the kisses go into the bowl, not into their mouths.
- Try to use plastic containers, just in case something gets knocked off the counter. That way, the only danger will be a floor that needs to be cleaned up.
- Let your child add the ingredients to Peanut Butter Logs as you stir the mixture. Then you can both shape the logs and sprinkle on the peanuts.
- Once you've blended the ingredients for Peanut Blossoms, let your child shape them into one-inch balls and place them on a cookie sheet as instructed.
- Emphasize safety first. Little ones need to know that although the kitchen can be a great place for fun, it can also be dangerous if they are not careful. Remind them that the oven and stove are no place for their little fingers. Mom or Dad must always supervise and be in charge of these places.
- Knives are off limits until you decide that your child is ready. Until then, choose tasks that do not require knives, or allow kids to learn using plastic knives. Using a plastic knife to cut up a peanut butter and jelly sandwich makes a child feel like a grown-up, but please watch carefully because even the teeth on a plastic knife can be sharp.
Some tasks that do not require cutting include:
- Pouring ingredients from measuring cups into the mixing bowl
- Turning the mixer's switch on and off
- Adding chocolate chips (but don't open the bag too early, or you may catch your assistant eating the ingredients!)