Karen Davison Shares Tips on Getting Kids Involved in the Kitchen

Cooking with children is a fun and educational activity. When kids learn to cook alongside their parents, they have the opportunity to learn important life skills in a fun setting. They also learn more about nutrition. Cooking can even teach math skills. Some parents may be nervous about letting their children into the kitchen, believing that they may make a mess or hurt themselves, but there are ways to help children learn to cook in a safe environment.

Chef and food blogger Karen Davison shares the reasons that parents should get their children involved in preparing meals for the family, and how to get them into the kitchen safely.

Why Cook with Kids?

When children are small, one of their favorite things to do is help their parents with household activities. Children want to try adult activities as a way of learning about the world. Some parents might want to keep their children out of the kitchen for fear that they make a mess or injure themselves. It’s important to understand that even young children can make themselves useful in the kitchen.

Cooking can teach children how to follow directions. When a parent explains how to complete a kitchen task, children are mentally stimulated. Following the steps of a recipe can help children understand cause and effect.

Cooking also helps to develop reading and science skills. Understanding what happens when food is cooked is fascinating for young and older children alike.

Fine motor skills are another area in which cooking can be a big help. According to Karen Davison, these skills are gradually developed over time as children move toward more precise methods of preparing food.

Cooking helps children with their imagination and creativity, especially when they are allowed to help build a new recipe. Creativity can be an asset in the kitchen as young chefs develop their skills.

Parents and children can bond in the kitchen. Sharing activities that they both enjoy can make special memories for both parent and child.

Learning About Nutrition

Proper nutrition is one of the most important things that parents can teach their children. Children are more likely to eat healthy food if they had a hand in preparing it. When they cook with their parents, they can learn how to create a balanced meal with the right proportions of vegetables, grains, and proteins. They can also be taught why people should eat a varied diet with plenty of healthy options.

Getting beyond “kid food” like chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese can be a major benefit of cooking with children. When children are introduced to healthy foods like kale and broccoli at a young age, they are more likely to enjoy these foods as they grow older.

Of course, there are times when every child is picky and puts up resistance to eating healthy. This is a great time to bring a child into the kitchen and show them how to create a delicious but nutritious meal.

Cooking Safely with Children

When planning to cook with your children, you should consider which tasks are age-appropriate. Just as you wouldn’t give your young child a power tool, it is important to judge which activities your child is mature enough to perform in the kitchen.

Young preschoolers, ages 3 to 5, can begin helping with kitchen tasks. Some of the age-appropriate activities that they can take part in include using cookie cutters and mixing simple ingredients. They can help to rinse produce, clear tabletops, and cut soft foods with a plastic knife.

From 6 to 7 years old, children can be taught to crack eggs. They can use vegetable peelers with supervision. They can help to take seeds out of peppers and tomatoes. They can pull the husks off corn and rinse it. They can even use blunt scissors to cut parsley, green onions, and other herbs.

From ages 8 to 9, children are steadily gaining the mental and physical coordination that is necessary to help a great deal in the kitchen. They can clean and rinse vegetables, use a can opener, beat eggs, measure dry ingredients, and pound out meats on a cutting board.

Ages 10 to 12 are an exciting time for a young cook. This is the age when children are able to use the stovetop and oven. They can generally follow simple recipes on their own. They can learn to boil vegetables and pasta. They can be taught knife safety and slice vegetables. They can be trusted to handle hot pans and use the oven and microwave.

Sanitation

Children should always be taught to manage basic sanitation in the kitchen. Children can learn why it is dangerous to share a cutting board between poultry and other foods. They can learn that it is necessary to always work with clean tools and dishes. Children need to learn proper hand-washing techniques as well.

Prepare for Messes

When working with young children, parents should prepare for the possibility of a big mess. It is a good idea to put newspaper down on the floor under your child’s work area to catch any drips and spills.

When your child is done cooking, teach them how to clean up after themselves. They can manage wiping up spills with a paper towel, sweeping the floor with a broom, and wiping tables and countertops. Parents may have to follow them and finish the job, but the point is that the child is learning the skill of cleaning up.

Cooking with Kids

Cooking with children is a rewarding activity. It teaches vital life skills including fine motor skills, math, science, reading, nutrition, and sanitation. Karen Davison understands that many parents are nervous to let their children in the kitchen, but she assures them that it will be a positive experience for everyone.

Chef, Culinary Blogger, Foodie (obviously), Loving life in Dallas!