Youngsters who help cook may be youngsters who eat well.
Allowing children to help out in the kitchen encourages them to try new foods - especially those they help to make. Better Homes and Gardens magazine offers these suggestions about how to get them started.- Encourage children to help plan menus. When including their favorite foods, chances are they will be eager to help with the cooking.
- Set guidelines. Children as young as 3 can participate in cooking activities. Let them know that their assistance is appreciated. But also impress on them that they should always have an adult around for safety's sake.
Six-year-olds who can read may be able to use a microwave oven or toaster oven, with the help of an adult. Have them start with easy tasks such as defrosting hot dog buns and heating up frankfurters or canned spaghetti.
When confident that the youngsters can use appliances safely, store utensils within their easy reach and, in the case of the microwave oven, keep aluminum foil and metal utensils away from young hands.
- Stress organization. Before cooking, pull out all the needed ingredients, and keep a trash can and damp sponge nearby for easy cleanup.
- Encourage good habits. Start by washing hands with soap and water. Tie back long hair. Then give children their own work space. Give them a table knife for cutting, or for those 7 or older, the smallest paring knife.
- Choose the best recipes. Younger children (aged 5 and under) will enjoy stirring up a batter while the assisting adult measures ingredients, so recipes for one-bowl cakes, muffins, cookies or brownies work well. Later, teach the children such techniques as separating eggs or kneading bread dough.
Salads and sandwiches are other fun things for children to make. Young ones can tear the lettuce and have fun tossing the ingredients.
Snack dips go together easily. At the same time, show the children how to cut up and enjoy vegetable and fruit dippers.
- Work step by step. To ensure their success, help the children follow recipes exactly. Go through each step, using the utensils called for.