Cooking with kids can be fun, but hazardous if they don’t know the fundamentals of safe and sanitary food handling and preparation. Before you embark on your first cooking lesson, teach them these five basic rules that many adults are still learning. Armed with this information, they will enjoy years of healthy and enjoyable culinary exploration.
When imparting your knowledge, keep the tone light and fun. Delivering dry sermons and intellectual speeches will quickly bore them, little knowledge will be absorbed and you’ll soon find them gazing out the window or fidgeting with the zipper on their hoodie.
Set an example by washing your hands with soap and water every time you handle a different type of food. Watch cooking shows with them and note how frequently their favorite chef washes his or her hands. Gently remind them how germs get transmitted when they lick food off their fingers, then continue with their tasks without washing.
Clean food, cutting boards and utensils
Explain how vegetables grow and collect dirt. Talk about the treatments used on fruits and vegetables and how important it is to wash them before eating. Designate one cutting board for meats and another for fruits and vegetables, and describe the gory details of food poisoning that can result from using the same board for both. Kids not only love graphic descriptions, they tend to remember stories better when those types of details are included.
Simply tell small children they are not allowed to touch the knives. If necessary, fib that you have a magic solution that you can apply to knives that reveals the fingerprints and identity of offenders. Teach older kids the value of using very sharp knives and describe how dull knives cause more accidents than sharp ones. Illustrate how to hold a knife and safely angle the blade against the cutting board.
Ovens and stovetops
It’s easier to point out fire hazards on a gas stove because they display flames. For electric stoves, turn a burner to high and hold a piece of bread above it to illustrate how the intensity of the heat toasts it — and ask your child to imagine what it would do to her hand. A little fear of fire is a good thing. Have her stick her hand inside a preheated oven to grasp the strength of the heat and why it’s imperative to use pot holders when pulling things out of the oven.
Safety tools and directives
Go over the instructions on the kitchen fire extinguisher and make sure the child understands them. Show them where the baking soda is and clearly detail how it should be used to extinguish grease fires instead of water. Find an online video showing the devastating results of pouring water on a grease fire.
Once your child has been schooled in these cooking basics, you can move on to the fun stuff like learning measurements and methods and making meals. Watch them closely and kindly remind them of what they learned every time you notice them make a mistake. Don’t be too harsh or you’ll diminish their desire to learn more.