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Cooking with Children

BY KIM HUGHES, COUNTY EXTENSION AGENT

School will soon be out for the summer and your children may need something productive and worthwhile to do with their time.  How about teaching them how to cook?  This could also include the entire spectrum of feeding your family – writing menus, wise shopping, food safety, food preparation, and clean up.

Cooking with children can be great fun! Not only does it teach them valuable life skills, but it gives them the opportunity to increase their vocabulary, work on fine motor skills, and opens up the lines of communication to build family bonds.

Plan to have a block of time when cooking with children. For younger cooks starting out, have some patience, focus on simple tasks, and remember they will make a mess. Work together as a family to clean up spills.

Let your children plan meals and go grocery shopping with you, make the ingredient list together and allow them to choose the fruits and vegetables to cook that meal.

Here are several tips to get you started:

  • Start with breakfast; make eggs, muffins or pancakes.
  • Create a family theme night; go to your local dollar store for decorations. You may want to try Fiesta night, FootballFriday or Veggie Tale Saturday.
  • Create a cooking tool drawer for your children.
  • Help them make an apron or chef hat to wear when cooking.

Important points to remember:

  • Good cooks of all ages always wash their hands before cooking.
  • Tell children to wait until the dish is done before sampling it. This will help prevent the spread of illness.
  • Expect spills and messes.
  • Children have short attention spans. Give them quick and simple jobs. Keep instructions simple and give instructions one-step at a time.
  • Children get excited and forget. Repeat directions as often as needed.
  • Young cooks need constant supervision.
  • Give children jobs to help with cleanup.

Provide children with positive feedback on their cooking effort to encourage continued participation.

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