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Encouraging Heroes. You can be one too.

(Editor’s note: please welcome a guest post on cooking from Emily and Kathleen. Cooking with kids is a great thing to do. Thanks, ladies!)

Bubbling pots, sizzling skillets and delicious smells can make the kitchen the most desirable place for children to want to play. However, it can be the most dangerous place for them to play as well. The potential hazards don’t have to keep children out of the kitchen. Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of Primrose Schools for early childhood education, says kitchen time can be a great way for families to regain some lost, but valuable, family time.

Dr. Zurn also says, “The kitchen is often the most popular place in the house for families to gather. It’s a place for learning and sharing, where the family can enjoy quality time. Children can also develop a sense of responsibility by participating in daily tasks.”

By following this simple recipe, parents can enjoy spending quality time with their children while teaching them about cooking in a safe learning environment:

  1. 1. Engage your child meaningfully. Think of independent tasks your children can accomplish themselves. Completing simple jobs like spreading butter, rolling dough and measuring sugar can boost a child’s sense of pride and accomplishment. Tearing bread, adding chocolate chips to sweets and shaking parmesan onto pasta are other safe, satisfying tasks children can easily accomplish. Even very young children can get involved – give them some pots, pans and wooden spoons so they can pretend to cook with you or use them for music-making. The tuneful accompaniment will let you know they’re safely engaged and give them a way to feel like they’re helping too.
  2. 2. Set some ground rules. Children need supervision when they’re in the kitchen, so establish a list of basic safety rules and make sure children are always within sight. To avoid spreading harmful germs, teach your child to wash their hands before and after they handle food. Discuss on a regular basis what’s safe to touch and what’s not. Another useful tip, make sure the handles of pots and pans on the stove are turned in so no one bumps them or runs into them spilling hot good or water.
  3. 3. Build up skills step-by-step. Children can develop many essential skills in the kitchen, such as following recipes or counting eggs. For more advanced skills, start slowly and have your child master easy tasks before attempting harder ones. Older children can be taught more advance tasks, such as using a dull knife. Give them soft items such as cooked noodles or bread to slice. Once your child’s coordination develops more, they can be introduced to slicing and cutting some tougher foods such as fruits and veggies.
  4. 4. Keep it fun. Cooking can be messy with or without children, so don’t stress over the “oops” and little accidents. If the cake batter ends up on the wall instead of inside the bowl after using a mixer, offer some guidance and let your child try again. Cleaning up can be just as fun as making the mess!
    Complimenting your little chef on a job well done when the meal is complete is important as well. Offer them the first taste of whatever you cooked together and ask them what you should make next time. Bon appétit!

Co-written by Emily Patterson and Kathleen Thomas
Emily and Kathleen are Communications Coordinators for the network of child care facilities belonging to the AdvancED® accredited family of Primrose child care schools. Primrose Schools are located in 16 states throughout the U.S. and are dedicated to delivering progressive, early childhood, Balanced Learning® curriculum throughout their preschools.

Photo courtesy of sugarsnaptastic via Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

Earnest Parenting: help for parents who want to cook with their children.