Showing children how to get around in the kitchen properly will stay with them for a lifetime. Teaching them to cook creates opportunities for them to express themselves creatively. For working parents, an extra pair of hands in the kitchen on week nights can be invaluable! Here are a few tips to help everyone have fun safely!

Read the instructions. Before starting a dish, walk through the recipe with your child step by step, and lay out all the ingredients, measuring tools, and cooking containers that you’ll need. Doing this teaches the importance of preparation. It also helps ensure that you have everything you need — and in sufficient quantities; have you ever needed three eggs but realized halfway through the recipe that you only had two eggs?

Measure, measure, measure. Measuring spoons and cups help children understand math, especially fractions. To make things interesting, use brightly colored measuring equipment with large, kid-friendly handles and numbers. You can find entire lines of cooking equipment made just for kids — grown-ups love them too!

Buy “cookbooks to grow by.” A wide variety of books is available for children of all ages. Let them pick recipes that they want to try. As they become more interested in cooking and their taste buds develop, they can try more advanced recipes. The classic Betty Crocker Cookbook, geared for everyone from beginner water boilers to experienced chefs, is also available as an app.

Take the heat off. Let children take charge of a meal and call it “No-Heat Night.” The little ones can prepare salads, dips and veggies, sandwiches, and cold desserts.

Embrace your inner kid. Remember your favorite childhood dishes (grilled cheese sandwiches come to mind)? Teach little ones to make them and encourage them to add their own spin.

The ABCs of cooking. Cooking is a great way to teach kiddos to spell and read. Help them identify ingredients such as flour, sugar, and rice by having them hand write labels for canisters and other storage containers.

Set up off-limits zones: Consider placing equipment like knives in special containers and storing them in higher cabinets rather than in drawers or on the counter.

Clothing matters. Teach children what to wear in the kitchen (loose clothing can be dangerous; non-slip footwear should be required). And let each child pick out a stylish apron.

Hygiene matters too! Food safety is very important. Show children how to wash their hands before they begin cooking and remind them to wash them periodically. Also show them how to keep foods and preparation containers separated to avoid contamination.

Teach alternatives to frying: Frying is one of the most dangerous activities in the kitchen. But you can find a lot of recipes that offer alternatives to classic frying techniques. Baking and grilling produce delicious results that are also healthier!

Safety at every age
One of the most common concerns parents have is about allowing children to use the stove, knives, and other dangerous equipment. Here’s a handy age-group guide to using utensils and cooking with heat:

AGE GROUP UTENSILS AND EQUIPMENT
Toddlers to first graders
  • No heated equipment
  • Child-friendly plastic cooking spoons and bowls only
Second through fourth graders
  • Microwave only
  • Plastic spoons, forks, and bowls
Preteens
  • Microwave and stovetop
  • Plastic and metal cooking utensils and containers
  • Small electrical appliances (blenders, hand mixers)
  • Well-supervised use of utensils with sharp points or edges
Teens
  • Microwave, stovetop, and oven (baking only at first; broiling when trained)
  • Plastic, metal, and glass containers
  • Small and large electrical appliances
  • Supervised/trained to use cooking knives

CAUTION: Ceramic knives and cutting utensils look like plastic, so children (and some adults) may not understand how sharp they are. You’ll want to be extra careful about storing ceramic equipment with other tools.

Your doctors at Teladoc wish you and your family a safe time in the kitchen. Our physicians are licensed in specialties such as pediatrics and family medicine, and can help diagnose and treat the flu, upper respiratory infections, allergies, pink eye, lice, and many other non-emergency conditions. We’re available 24/7 anywhere in the U.S. Download the app so that you’ll have us at your fingertips any time you need us. Enjoy!

 

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