Tips To Help You Cook Safely With The Kids You Care For
Children who learn to cook develop lots of new skills, including increasing their fine motor skills, language, and math abilities. Research shows that just 33% of parents cook with their children on a weekly basis. As so many kids are missing out on this vital learning experience, it’s your job as a childcare provider to ensure that the children you care for develop a love for cooking. Here’s how to get started with children of any age.
When to start
A child should be introduced to the kitchen as young as possible. An infant can be carried in a sling and told all about cooking. As they get bigger, let them explore pots, pans, and wooden spoons. Between the ages of 18 months and two years when a toddler can start to help you cook. Things they can do that will get them interested in cooking include:
- Tasting and smelling ingredients
- Throwing egg shells, vegetable peelings, and similar into the trash can
- Sprinkling cheese, herbs, sugar, etc., onto the top of a dish
- Holding the spoon with you as you mix
Have the right tools
If you don’t have the luxury of height-adjustable countertops, make sure you have something a child can stand on so they can safely reach. A leaning tower is a good option for a child up to the age of 6 as they’re supported on all sides. Older children can use a standard stool if needed. Other tools to invest in include:
- Non-slip bowls
- Non-slip knives with child guard
- Small, non-stick rolling pin
- Box grater
- Silicone-handled pots and pans
- Child-sized oven mitts
You may also want to get some nifty kitchen gadgets that will make cooking exciting for a child. Animal-shaped cookie cutters, a salad spinner, and a patterned pastry wheel are just a few ideas to get you started.
One of the most important things you can teach a child in the kitchen is food safety. Every year, there are 48 million cases of food poisoning in America. Children need to be taught the importance of preparing and eating food in a safe, clean environment. When you’re having a meal outside, pests can be a problem. Regular cleaning is crucial in order to keep pests away. Plastic furniture, such as tables and chairs, should also be cleaned before and after every meal to get rid of germs.
Other things you should teach a child to prevent food poisoning are:
- Using separate chopping boards and utensils for meat, fish, and veggies.
- Temperature checking using a thermometer
- Hand washing
- Storing meat in the coldest part of the refrigerator
- Checking ‘use by dates
- Reheating food thoroughly
Developing independence in the kitchen
As a child grows and becomes more confident in the kitchen, you’ll need to nurture them further by giving them trickier things to do. Kneading a ball of dough should soon become rolling out the dough to the desired shape. Kids can also go from pouring weighed-out ingredients into the mixing bowl with help to doing it on their own to measuring it out themselves. By gradually giving children more and more tasks to do, you’ll boost their confidence and independence.
Letting your child cook alone
There’s no right or wrong age when a child can be left to cook alone. Instead, it should be a gradual thing. Start by supervising them from the sidelines while they cook a meal. If this is a success, remain in the room while they cook and occupy yourself with other tasks, such as helping younger children to cook. A good responsibility to hand over to a confident child cook is cooking with a younger child. This will allow them to pass on the skills and knowledge they’ve learned. They’re also more likely to take kitchen safety seriously when they’re acting as role models and mentors to little chefs.
Cooking is a great way to get kids interested in food, eat healthier, and develop key knowledge and skills. As a childcare provider, make sure you let the kids you care for loose in your kitchen so that they get to experience the joy of cooking.