Many kids are naturally entertained by cooking and baking; give a child some rolled-out dough and a few cookie cutters andwatch in awe as he lets loose with his creative side. Part of the appeal is that working in the kitchen can be messy–which many kids enjoy–but it’s also something that incorporates science, math, and art in a fun way that allows little ones to explore a bit. Moreover, if you find joy in baking, getting your kids involved can help build some stress relief and fun into an otherwise hectic routine.
One of the most important things to remember when working with kids in the kitchen is safety. There’s a lot to think about, including fire prevention, working with tools, and teaching your young ones the best way to handle accidents, so it’s important to have a good plan before you get started.
Start with cleanliness
Some of the most important kitchen safety rules involve keeping your workspace–and yourself–clean and sanitary. Have your kids pull back long hair and teach them the proper way to wash their hands: lather up, use warm water, and sing the alphabet to ensure they’re washing long enough. Show them how to keep their workstation clean, especially when working with raw meat, and how to properly wash fruits and veggies. Kid-sized aprons are a great investment, too, or you can just have them wear an old t-shirt.
Teach tool safety
The use of tools is part of the fun for kids when it comes to cooking and baking, and even cookie cutters can have sharp edges. Think about the best ways for your kids to work in the kitchen according to their age; children as young as 3 can help out, but it’s important to make sure they can safely reach the counter on a sturdy stool and that there are no sharp edges for them to get cut on. If you need tips on age-appropriate cooking projects, GoodFood has put together a handy list by age group.
Go over fire safety rules
Fire safety is a must in the kitchen, especially if you have a gas stovetop. Talk to your little ones about how to stay safe around the oven and teach them how to use the fire extinguisher. Go over how to treat a burn and how to handle things like hot oil in a pan. Always keep dish towels and pot holders away from the stovetop and turn pot handles to the side so that clothing can’t get caught on them.
It’s also important to check your smoke alarms regularly to ensure they’re working properly and never, under any circumstances, leave a child unattended in the kitchen.
Talk about tasting
It’s tempting sometimes to take a little taste of whatever you’re cooking, but it’s important to talk to your little ones about not doing so until the item has been cooked through. Go over the dangers of cross-contamination, as well, and how bacteria from raw foods can cause lots of problems.
Cleanup time should be handled with care
Anyone who uses the kitchen should do their part to clean up afterward, so go over some of the basic cleanup rules with your kids. Make sure everyone knows not to place knives in a sink full of water, as this can cause injury. Have them leave the cleaning of any appliances–such as a blender–to you or another adult, and make sure everything is turned off before leaving.
Remember to be patient with your little ones; working in the kitchen can be messy for kids, which is part of the fun, and they may need a little more time than you’ve planned for. Help them be successful and watch as they learn responsibility and practical lessons that they can apply in real life.