The food networks on television are an amazing phenomenon. When you were young, (this is for the over 30 age group,) would you have imagined a time when there would be channels dedicated to cooking and baking? The networks provide nearly twenty-four hours of food related entertainment. There are an array of chefs and cooks from all walks of life, and representing many regions of the world. They have food for the healthy food fans and the fans of all things fattening!
There are cooking competition shows featuring children, as well.
You may have a child whom is positively captivated by the these channels. You may be wondering how soon is too soon to indulge a child’s love of cooking and baking. Well, the actual cooking and baking is off limits to very your children and toddlers. A good place to start for very young children is with washing vegetables and fruit and plastic spoons or bowls.
You can also allow stirring room temperature ingredients or mashing room temperature foods. Sprinkling is acceptable, as well as icing cookies or cakes, (being sure to use icing without raw eggs.) Spooning flour or sugar into a scale is also an activity for the very young in the kitchen. Toddlers ages 3 to 5 can also knead, tear herbs, and use a wooden mortar and pestle. You can also allow your child in this age group to spread butter or peanut butter while using a plastic, rounded child-safe knife.
Kids aged 5 to 7 can measure ingredients. It is not only essential to the art of cooking, but is also a great way to help with Math skills! Beating and folding with a wooden spoon is a great activity for kids these ages. They have the dexterity to peel oranges and hard-boiled eggs, too, (be sure the eggs are cooled completely before you allow your children to begin to peel.) You can teach them to line, grease, or butter a metal baking sheet. Ages 8 to 11 can really dial up the expertise! Kids this age can plan meals, help shop, search the cabinets for ingredients, follow simple recipes, and open cans. They can use a peeler on fruits and vegetables. Peelers come in all shapes and sizes and in all price ranges, so this is actually a great item to shop for and buy for your child while you are in a kitchen shop together. These are activities which are age appropriate, but you always have to assess your own child as an individual, and if you think they may not be ready, wait a while and just be supportive of their foodie passions.
Ages 12 and over are well on their way to being able to follow more complex directions and can grasp the essentials of kitchen safety. The kitchen is the family gathering place and a place of bonding for families. Sadly, it is also the room in which most home accidents happen. Falls, burns, and cuts are the most significant injuries. Keeping a first aid kit in your kitchen is very important. This applies even if it is still just a zone used by adults. Always, always, always be safe in your kitchen when your children are present. For the specifics on age appropriate cooking and baking, and very important information for safety in the kitchen with kids, please refer to the following articles.