By Denise Long
Children love learning how to cook. They’ve watched their parents cook and bake from a very early age. That’s an advantage for you, as a parent, when you start to show your kids how things work in the kitchen. Use their fascination to emphasize that cooking is only fun when it’s done safely and mindfully. Safety is the first thing your children need to learn—how to avoid cuts and burns and make sure the food they prepare is safe to eat.
You can make it fun by having them remind you to be safe and point out what’s okay and what isn’t. It’s a great way to make them feel useful and keep them fully engaged in one of the most important household tasks. Children like having clear guidelines and knowing what their boundaries are, so make sure they understand why it’s so important to observe basic safety rules when they’re working around sharp objects, electricity, and extreme heat. If you’re a newly divorced or separated single parent, teaching your kids kitchen safety is a good way to spend time together and bond over a responsibility in which everyone has a stake.
No flying solo
Children love to show off what they’ve learned, and they may be tempted to go it alone so they can surprise you with a batch of cupcakes or cookies. Explain that while it’s great they want to cook, they need to wait until you’re there, at least until they’re older. In the beginning, kids are apt to forget some of the pointers they’ve been taught, which is why an adult always needs to be present. Accidents, like fires and burns, can happen so quickly in the kitchen. Be certain your kids understand that this is rule number one: no adults, no cooking!
Child-proof your kitchen before allowing kids to use appliances, the stove, or any sharp objects. Have a fire extinguisher nearby and make sure your children know how to use it. Place safety knobs on your stove and put sharp knives where they can’t get to them without your help.
The second most important rule is to maintain cleanliness in the kitchen. Explain how bacteria can live on hands, tools, and food items and why it’s so crucial to make sure to wash up and rinse off before cooking. Hands should be washed with soap and hot water to get rid of bacteria. Vegetables and fruit must be thoroughly washed off because bacteria could be present on the surface and be transferred into the part you’ll eat. Show them how to keep knives and other kitchen tools clean to avoid contaminating the food you’re preparing.
Many kids come into the kitchen with a healthy respect for sharp knives. Those who don’t must understand that until they understand why they need to value knife safety, they can’t learn to cook. In fact, this is the very first kitchen safety lesson many children learn from their parents. You can begin by using plastic knives to demonstrate proper slicing technique. Show them how to cut away from their hands and to go slowly, especially in the beginning. Make sure they know where the Band-Aids and disinfectant are and how to apply them in case someone does suffer a cut.
Beat the heat
Burns are some of the most common kitchen accidents. Demonstrate how to use pot holders and oven mitts to carry hot pans and dishes without getting burned. Get your kids their very own potholders and put their names on them so they’re more likely to use them diligently and correctly.
Children are often reluctant to pitch in and help with household chores. Cooking is one thing they can easily be encouraged to help with and be shown how to do safely. If you’re a single parent, kids who can help out with the cooking can be a blessing. Make sure they know how to behave responsibly and what to do if something goes wrong.
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