Teach your kids to cook

Jan 4, 2008 at 1:41 p.m. ET

Years ago, it was a family tradition to pass down the secrets to treasured recipes and spend hours in the kitchen teaching children to cook. Somewhere between the addiction to video games and the overactive schedules of parents and children, cooking lessons have been neglected.

While there are many reasons for teaching kids to cook -- less expensive than eating out, preserves family heritage, etc. -- the most important reason is that by teaching your child to cook, you're giving him a better chance to be a healthy grown-up. Enabling your child with the ability to appreciate freshness and to transform ingredients into tasty foods opens their eyes to making wiser choices about what to eat.

Cooking is perfect for children. They enjoy assembling, measuring and chopping tasks. It offers them an opportunity to be proud of their accomplishments and to share them with others. Cooking has activities for all ages. Here are some age-appropriate activities that can you get your started:

Activities for children 3-6 years old:
Washing fruits and veggies
Cleaning the tables and counters
Rolling things up on a baking sheet
Making shapes with cookie cutters

Activities for children 6-10 years old:
Reading recipes
Writing the shopping list when told the ingredients
Using measuring cups for dry and liquid ingredients
Stirring ingredients in a bowl
Using a dull knife to spread
Prepping fruits and veggies without a knife (i.e. snapping beans, husking corn, etc.)

Activities for 10-13 year olds:
Following steps and preparing simple recipes with little adult intervention
Using a microwave, oven and stove.
Using a hand grater
Using a knife with supervision
Operating a hand electric mixer

Activities for teens:
Planning a balanced meal, party menu or special event
Reading a recipe and creating a shopping list
Operating a food processor and blender
Making multiple ingredient recipes without supervision

When you begin to teach your child to cook it is important to teach appropriate kitchen safety and cleanliness practices. Introduce new safety and cleanliness concepts as your child progresses in his or her skill level. You can never review the basics of safety and cleanliness enough. And most of all -- have fun!