Part I of this topic discussed the benefits of cooking with children and the learning that the children experience through cooking. As mentioned in Part I, safety is of utmost importance when getting children involved with cooking activities. In this second part, we look into the precautions that need to be taken by parents and the safety rules that need to be understood by children.

Getting children involved

Some things that parents can do to encourage children to get involved in cooking are:

  • Make cooking fun by getting children small aprons to wear.
  • Protect your table with a clean paper/table mat as cooking with children can get messy. Children can work with the ingredients without having the fear of making a mess. This makes cleaning up easier too.
  • Demonstrate how to do a task before asking the children to do it.
  • Provide enough space and large bowls – as children’s motor skills are still developing, they need more space than adults to move their arms. This will also reduce the chance of them spilling things or tipping things over.
  • Give children small, simple tasks initially and then as they become more competent give them more responsibilities.
  • Avoid cooking when you are in a hurry. Schedule more time to prepare your meal when children are helping. Do not expect them to move as quickly as adults.
  • Involve children in finding healthy recipes and creating a menu. They are more likely to get involved in cooking and also trying out healthy food.
  • Praise and thank children for helping. It will boost their self-esteem, sense of responsibility and self-worth.

Tasks for children

Cooking is an activity that can be broken down into smaller tasks.  Tasks should be assigned depending on the age and the competency of the child. Here are some tasks that can be given to children:

  • Washing and cleaning fruit and vegetables.
  • Picking herbs and leaves from the stem.
  • Mashing cooked vegetables.
  • Kneading dough.
  • Rolling the dough using a rolling pin.
  • Mixing ingredients - dry ingredients as it is easier to mix than wet ingredients.
  • Brushing butter/oil on the cooking or baking pan.
  • Peeling fruit such as bananas and mandarins.
  • Using the cookie cutter to cut out shapes from fruit/vegetables/dough.
  • Spreading butter and jam.
  • Plating of food – Children learn about appropriate portions and also presentation of food.

Safety in the kitchen

  • Children should always be supervised by adults in the kitchen.
  • Make sure there are no sharp edges or corners in the kitchen where children may get injured.
  • All electrical outlets should be sealed off with safety plugs.
  • Wipe dry all spills immediately to avoid slipping and falling down.
  • Switch off any electronic devices such as TV, tablets and hand phones while working in the kitchen. Cooking requires your full attention. Distractions may cause accidents.
  • Put away the knives after use. Do not leave them lying around.
  • Do not walk around with knife or sharp kitchen tools in hand.
  • Always use pot holders when handling hot containers and utensils.
  • An adult should be physically present and watching when the stove or any electrical appliances are in use.
  • Make sure your child is away from the hot oven door before opening it.
  • Switch off and unplug the stove and all electrical appliances when not in use.
  • Clean the cutting board and knives with soap after each use. Cross contamination from raw foods is dangerous. If possible use different cutting boards and knives for meat, fish and vegetables
  • Wash hands with soap before and after handling food, especially meat, poultry and seafood, and wipe with a clean towel.

Concluding comments

Learning the basics of cooking is a life skill. Getting children involved in cooking does not have to be a complicated affair.  Finding a simple recipe, making a list and shopping for ingredients are all part of the cooking activity.  Remember to start small and enjoy the process.

Copyright © Sheela Warrier and Marjory Ebbeck 2017

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