Teach Kids to Cook and Bake Safely With These Four Tips
A lot of parents struggle to get kids interested in eating a variety of nutritious foods. One of the best ways to encourage them to be more adventurous eaters is to let kids be involved with cooking. The kitchen can be hazardous for kids, though, so be sure to teach these safety skills right alongside cooking lessons.
#1 Make the Kitchen a Safe Space
The kitchen can be one of the most hazardous rooms in your home. Start by childproofing to make your kitchen more kid-friendly and as safe as possible. You can teach older kids safety around a hot stove, but if you have younger children, a stove guard will help keep them protected. Hazardous objects including sharp utensils should be stored away from a child’s reach and away from counter edges where they could easily be knocked off. If your cooking space is too close to the oven or range, PBS suggests setting up a work area at a lower height where kids have their own safe space to help.
Latches on cabinet doors can keep kids out of areas where you store anything that may be unsafe, but your best bet is to store all cleaning products and anything else hazardous out of a child’s reach. You should also use covers on all outlets and stow away electronics and electrical cords. Even with these precautions, fire is always a risk in the kitchen, so be sure to keep a fire extinguisher where it’s readily available.
#2 Set Special Kitchen Rules
You probably already have general rules for behavior, but it’s a good idea to have some specific rules for anytime kids are in the kitchen so they know safety is always a top priority. Asking an adult’s permission to use any appliance or cooking tool should always be the number one rule. Hand washing should be another nonnegotiable, along with guidelines for hair and clothing, like pulling back long hair and making sure clothing isn’t too loose. Don’t exclude yourself from these rules. Always supervise kids closely when they’re in the kitchen and never leave the kitchen while frying or broiling because fires can happen in a second.
#3 Teach Kitchen Safety Skills
Along with following basic safety rules, kids need to know how to use appliances, utensils and other tools safely. If you aren’t sure which skills to introduce for different ages, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides a guide for what is age appropriate. Younger children should never be allowed near a stove, but for older children who are allowed to cook at the stove with your supervision, teach them to always turn pot handles towards the back and always double-check that all burners are turned off when finished.
Start introducing knife skills to small children by letting them use child-sized knives that aren’t sharp to spread their own peanut butter. As kids get older, teaching them how to use knives properly gives them an important skill for chopping fruits and vegetables so they can prepare healthy meals. Any kids who cook need to learn about safe handling of food and how to prevent cross-contamination of germs. In this video, Food Network star Guy Fiori and his son demonstrate how cross-contamination can happen and how to prevent it.
#4 Teach Emergency Preparedness
You may want to have a designated spot with important phone numbers, a first aid kit and a fire extinguisher so kids know exactly where to go for help. Teach your kids how to handle potential kitchen emergencies before teaching them to cook so they will be prepared if an emergency ever does happen.
It’s normal to worry about kids in the kitchen, but teaching kitchen safety is the best way to protect them. Learning to cook is an essential skill that helps kids appreciate fresh, healthy ingredients and eating freshly cooked food. Many of us think of the kitchen as the heart of the home, so it’s your job as a parent to make it a space where kids can enjoy being involved while learning how to do so safely.
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