One way to tempt children's appetites is to let them help cook. Hasbro has a "Now You're Cooking" line of dishwasher-safe utensils and step-by-step recipe cards designed for kids. The recipes are easy to understand, and most utensils can be used in the microwave.

Key points to make cooking a positive experience:

_ Start teaching about food in early childhood.

_ Always use correct terms for food, equipment and processes. (You "beat" eggs and "knead" dough.)

_ Teach the principles of safety and sanitation through proper use of cooking tools and supplies.

Cookbooks for young cooks include: "Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual," with illustrations by Jim McGuinness (Klutz Press, Palo Alto, Calif., $8.95) and "The Taming of the C.A.N.D.Y. Monster," recently updated by Vicki Lansky (The Book Peddlers, Practical Parenting, Dept. CM, Deephaven, MN 55391, $7.95).

Gold Medal Flour is offering a booklet to help children create some easy dishes. Write for: Alpha Bakery, Gold Medal Flour, Box 5401, Dept. 849, Minneapolis, MN 55460. Cost is $1.