The–best–way–to–teach–kids about eating right–is to actually get them into the kitchen to prepare healthy meals together. Cooking–is a valuable life skill that teaches children about nutrition–and food safety, as–well as building math, science, literacy and fine motor skills.
Encourage your child’s interest–and even excitement in healthy foods by teaching your kids how to cook safely–with this guide of age-appropriate kitchen activities.
Food Safety Basics
Before you enter the–kitchen, cover the ground–rules–with children first:
- Wash hands–in–warm, soapy water before and after handling food.
- Pull long hair–back.
- Keep counter–tops and working surfaces clean.
- Teach children–to wait until the food is cooked before tasting. Don’t let them lick their fingers–or put their hands in their mouths, especially when working with raw foods–such as cookie dough and raw meat or poultry.
- Avoid double–dipping or putting spoons–back into food after using them for tasting.
- Remember, young–cooks–need–supervision.
- Teach the four–simple–steps:
- Wash hands, surfaces–and kitchen utensils.
- Keep raw meat, poultry–and seafood separate from ready-to-eat foods.
- Cook to proper–temperatures.
- Refrigerate–promptly to 40 degrees F or below.
Young–children–love–helping–out, but need very close adult–supervision–since their motor skills are still developing. Teach these–youngsters the importance–of washing produce–and using clean appliances–and utensils.
- Wash–hands with warm, soapy water–for at least 20 seconds. Make it a game by singing the–“Happy Birthday”–song–together twice as you wash your hands.
- Wash fruits–and vegetables–the sink with cool tap water.
- Wipe up–tabletops.
- Mix–ingredients like easy-to-mix batters.
- Brush–(or “paint”) oil with a clean–pastry brush on bread, asparagus or other foods.
- Cut cookies with fun shaped cookie–cutters (but don’t eat the raw dough!).
Most–6-7–year–olds–have–developed fine motor–skills, so they can handle more detailed work, but they–will still need food safety–reminders.
- Use a–peeler to peel raw potatoes, ginger,–mangoes and–other fruits and vegetables.
- Break eggs–into a–bowl.
- Scoop out–avocados.
- Deseed–tomatoes and roasted peppers with a spoon.
- Snap–green beans.
- Load–the dishwasher.
- Shuck–corn and rinse before cooking.
- Rinse–and cut parsley or green onions with blunt scissors.
There–is a wide range of skills in this age group,–so–tailor–your–tasks to each individual’s maturity level. Teach the importance of wiping down–all surfaces and refrigerating perishables, such–as–eggs and milk, within–two hours.
- Open–cans with–a can opener.
- Put leftovers in–shallow containers and refrigerate within two hours.
- Pound chicken–on a cutting board. Note:–Always use a separate cutting board for ready-to-eat–foods, and be sure–to wash hands with warm, soapy water after handling–raw chicken.
- Check–the temperature of meat with a food thermometer – it’s like a science experiment!
- Juice a–lemon or orange.
For the most–part, kids ages 10 -12 can work–independently in the kitchen, but should still have adult supervision. Before letting–these kids do grown-up tasks on their own, assess whether–they can follow basic–kitchen rules such as tucking pan handles, unplugging–electrical–appliances, using knives and safely using the oven or microwave.
- Follow a–recipe, including–reading each step in order and measuring ingredients–accurately.
- Bake foods in the oven.
- Simmer–ingredients–on the stove.
- Slice or chop–vegetables.