I often wonder which family memories will stick in my children’s minds as they grow up and craft lives of their own. Will it be the forced family hikes, the loud and competitive game nights, the trips we’ve taken where the suggestion of a hotel room seemed more enticing than the destination itself? Or will it be the smaller, less structured times together hanging out on the couch watching a baseball game or laughing over a big pancake breakfast?
I vividly remember cooking with my mother and grandmother, and these memories are all exceedingly fond. Perhaps this is where my love of food began? Because I cook most weeknights, I always need extra hands to get dinner on the table, and because my daughter is often looking for attention at the dinner hour, I am making it a point to designate her my official helper. Hopefully, her memories will be equally as fond.
It won’t be productive for me to hand her a fake task with a pretend tool; at 7 she is too savvy for that. She wants to use the same tools I use and cook the actual foods we will eat. I can’t ask her to safely dice an onion and saute it over high heat, but there are loads of cooking tasks a child can undertake. Here is my guide for getting your kids into the kitchen.
At this age, it is all about exposure. Let them watch you from a safe spot such as a high chair, a playpen or a blanket on the kitchen floor away from hot pans and spills. Give them unbreakable kitchen tools such as wooden spoons and plastic measuring cups. If they are stable standing on a stool, they can rinse produce and “wash” plastic containers in the sink under cold water.
Before cooking, always ask your child to wash her hands; this is an important habit to teach. If working at the counter or in the sink, children should stand on a stable stool that is about a foot off the ground. Expect mess. Little children are completely unconcerned about the state of the kitchen floor, and their coordination might propel ingredients toward undesirable locations.
•Tear leafy greens
•Break broccoli and cauliflower into pieces
•Rinse and drain beans
•Brush vegetables with oil using a pastry brush
•Shake liquids such as salad dressing in a sealed container
•Spread butter or cream cheese onto bread or a bagel with a dull knife.
•Whisk, with your help
•Crack an egg, with your help
•Mix and pour ingredients, with your help
•Carry ingredients from place to place
•Throw things in the trash (surprisingly fun at this age)
Baked goods tend to be fun as every kid enjoys a cupcake or cookie at the…
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