Guest post by: Inger Koppenhaver
My children were just two years old when they began helping me in the kitchen and when I first started to teach them the art of cooking. My twin girls stirred two separate bowls with big plastic spoons while smiling from ear to ear. The moment ended in a disaster when one little one stirred a bit too hard and fell off her chair! Cookie baking time was over for them that afternoon but it would definitely prove to be the first of many adventures in my girls’ journey to helping me to cook in the kitchen!
One of my twin girls at six years old learning how to frost a cake.
I now have four children ages (almost) 4, 9, 12 and 12. One of my biggest goals before they leave home is to help each of them to become proficient in the kitchen. I also own a small town café along with my mother-in-law so I am able to bring all I have learned in my commercial kitchen back into my home kitchen, as well.
Here is a list I created of the top three kitchen safety tips for those of who are looking for a few hints on where to get started with teaching their children in the kitchen. I noticed that Molly Green’s Facebook page has been full of dialogue on occasion with advice from fans about helping kids learn to use recipes and learn safety skills. Feel free to add your advice in the comments section! I look forward to having you share them with us!
My almost four year old got more than hands on when making pizza crust!! But, those hands sure were clean!
1. Washing Hands
Yes, washing hands is my number one tip for kitchen safety!!! If you had a tiny hand camera following your little ones’ hands around all day, I think you would be amazed at all of the things that they touch. When working around food both in our café and in our home, we emphasize hand washing. Wash your hands before you begin cooking, after working with raw meat, after touching your face or fixing your hair, and of course, after using the restroom. When in doubt, wash!
For little ones (and us older ones too), make sure they also clean the area underneath their fingernails. When my twins were in the ICU as preemies, we were asked to wash our hands all the way up to the elbow for a five full minutes. Now, I am not suggesting that you do this BUT sometimes my kids will do the “five second soap and water wash” or the “I just washed with water” trick. Find a happy medium between extreme washing and fast power washing and that should work the best! Our health care provider suggested to have your children sing the Happy Birthday song two times through while washing. It works for my kids!
Start your child out with a butter knife or a dull knife with lots of supervision.
2. Kitchen Safety
I have encouraged my children to help me cut vegetables starting at an age at which I felt they could handle a knife responsibly. How to properly hold the knife, while using it to cut a firm vegetable, is an important skill to learn. Start with something simple like a green pepper or a tomato. Find videos online with a detailed tutorial on the correct way to cut each veggie.
Then, as the teacher, I would demonstrate to my child how to cut the vegetable. While I am there watching him, I have him demonstrate the skill. We usually practice many times before moving to the next step of having him try the skill independently. I will walk away from him and work on another part of the meal. I will stay close enough to help, if needed, but far enough away for him to experience doing it by himself. Finally, when they are old enough and have enough experience, I will tell them which parts of the meal need to be accomplished. Then, they can work independently to achieve those goals.
We also use the same technique when teaching them how to use the oven and the stove. It took my oldest children longer for them to feel confident with using the oven in comparison to using a knife. So, take it slowly. You may have to stay on steps one and two for quite some time until they feel secure enough to do it by themselves.
Last month the older children participated in a cooking competition for 4H. It was a great way for them to showcase the safety skills they have learned and to try new recipes. Both my daughters had to use the oven independently and my son used a sharp knife to cut vegetables.
3. Food Safety
There are common rules everyone knows when working with food such as keeping your uncooked meats separate from other side dishes until they are cooked. Also, keep a keen eye on the correct food temperatures. Not only do you need to make sure your meat is at the right temperature before you serve it but you need to focus on keeping the correct holding temperatures for your other food, as well. If you are serving a large meal and your corn soufflé is done an hour before everything else, this could be an issue. Here is a GREAT WEBSITE WITH CHARTS about food temperatures. Help the kids to learn how to test the temperatures of your food by purchasing a thermometer and follow the food safety charts to make sure it is kept at the right temperature.
Here is a basic “Check your Steps” food safety article to help your young children as they are starting on their cooking adventure: CHECK YOUR STEPS
Remember to wear cute aprons and cook up some fun with your kids in the kitchen this summer!
Inger grew up in a city by the beach in California, but loves living in her small Norman Rockwell kind of town on the prairie in Montana. She is a published author, a homeschool mom of four adorable children who also just happens to own a 50′s style café with her mother-in-law. You can find her blogging at www.hidingthepeas.wordpress.com and her café can be found here: http://www.facebook.com/badlandscafemt.