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Teaching Kids To Cook
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Culinary professionals say that cooking with kids can be fun for the whole family with a few simple safety rules and basic organization. The payoff? Encouraging children to enjoy cooking can help nurture a lifelong love of good food and eating well.

Experts say that having children in the kitchen can be a fun experience for all involved with a little careful planning. If you're working with young children under five, give them simple jobs such as using cookie cutters or decorating a plate with garnishes like herbs or flowers they can gather in a garden. For older children, most can use small paring knives close to the size of their hands to cut simple shapes from vegetables or fruits.

No matter what a child's age, close supervision is the most important safety consideration and teaching a child respect for the heat of an oven or a stove. Any child that needs to stand on a stool to use an oven shouldn't be using one. Chefs recommend that adults make sure to use the right size pots and pans to avoid splatter, and to keep handles pointed toward the back of the stove.

Besides helping kids appreciate good food and cooking techniques, let them do all the measuring. It's a great way to reinforce math skills. That way, it can be both fun and beneficial for the kids.

Teach kids even at an early age the important kitchen basics that -- with practice -- they will continue to use as adults. Tell your children that good food starts with good safety and sanitary habits. Teach them the importance of washing hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before beginning to cook and keeping work areas clean by washing down surfaces with a sponge and warm water, before and after cooking.

Kids are natural cooks and they have energy to spare. But they like to be kept busy in the kitchen, not just watching. No matter how well organized you are, kitchens get messy when children cook, but that's part of the fun. Encourage them to stop and clean up as they go along, clean cooking surfaces, and put ingredients away once they've been used.

Let kids understand the value of the food they eat by teaching them about nutrition, and keeping the lessons fun. Try playing nutrition bingo using black beans to mark the spaces, and quiz kids about the food pyramid. They will learn that they need to eat grains and vegetables several times a day and save the sugars for special treats. Encourage the children to think about what healthy snacks are all about. Introduce foods like fresh fruits and granola.

Everyone likes to eat, it's a common interest we all have. When children are invited into the kitchen as active participants and they see how much fun cooking can be, they are learning wonderful lessons about eating well that will serve them all their lives.

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September 22, 2017

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