The kitchen is one of my children’s favorite places to be. The older they get, now 4 and 7, the more involved they want to be…and the greater help they actually are. We often let the process start with them looking online or flipping through magazines or other recipes I bring home. Once they have their recipe chosen, the cooking begins! These are a few of their favorite jobs that always offer me great teachable moments.
Separating the Eggs
Allowing my daughter to separate egg whites from the yolks was difficult for me to embrace at first but, my daughter insisted. So with the sink nearby for hand washing we went for it…and she did a terrific job! Start by providing a small bowl with a good edge for cracking eggs. It may be a good idea to practice this when you have extra eggs on hand, just in case.
Best practice tip: Let your children know that cracking eggs into a separate bowl is an important step for any chef so that any mishaps–from shells or eggs that aren’t good–can be managed without disturbing the whole batter or recipe.
Stirring & Mixing
It seems like an easy fit that kids would love to turn on and off the electric mixer and see ingredients come together to form the perfect mixture. They also love, however, the good, old-fashioned mixing with a spoon and bowl. And what better way to work on counting!
Best practice tip: As much as they may get into stirring, remind kids of the importance of following instructions and not over/under mixing or tasting batter that may have raw egg or meat in it.
Slicing & Dicing
With the right tools on hand (read: plastic knives), kids can practice their knife skills right along with you. Start them off by cutting food into small, manageable chunks. In our kitchen we typically use the ZooPals utensils or the Zyliss Lettuce Knife.
Best practice tip: Even with your kid-friendly knives on hand, review the safe handling and storage of knives.
It’s never too early to talk about the importance of precision with some recipes (note “some,” as we also cherish those opportunities to teach kids about just adding a little of this and that). My daughter prides herself on perfectly leveling ingredients with a flat knife to measure just the right amount of flour and other dry ingredients. It goes without saying that the included math lesson is an added bonus!
Best practice tip: When measuring liquids, teach your children about the trick of the eye that comes from looking down into a measuring cup rather than bending to view it head on.
Arranging & Decorating
Let your kids create a very healthful, colorful salad or veggie and cheese platter. Children love to arrange and present foods like works of art. Every now and then, it’s also fun to let your kids explore their artistic, creative side with cake decoration (which actually works on their fine motor skills!). Get ready for the mess and let them go for it! We have been known to serve cakes that appear to be buried underneath the writing, sprinkles, frosting and other add-ons.
Best practice tip: For salads and platters, use a variety of fruits and vegetables for a rainbow of nutrients that are not only eye pleasing but full of antioxidants too!