Yes, that is one of my own children, by age 4, in the kitchen with me helping me cook. Before you think it is a crime that I have a four year old near a burner, let me assure you that mom is, except for this quick photo snap, right there next to her, literally holding her hand as we stir and boil.
So, how do I get them so comfortable in the kitchen, so young? Well, by the time they are two, they are usually curious about what mom is doing in the kitchen, so I let them start watching on a stool or chair, and teach them some basic kitchen rules:
1) They must not touch anything!
2) Mom points to hazards and says: sharp! or hot!
3) If they don’t obey, they have to leave. If they obey, they might get a taste test, especially if we are making baked goods:-)
Once the children have demonstrated obedience, I usually give them the chance to help stir foods not on a stove / not hot. I hold their hand at first, until I see their confidence, then give them a chance to try it own their own. I always remind them to hold the bowl / container they are stirring with one hand while stirring with the other.
By the time they are 3 or so, I find they are ready and wanting to put in ingredients and may also be curious about watching mom at the stove. As for the ingredients, I usually help them pour / scoop until I see their confidence, then let them try on their own. One of my weaknesses is tolerating spills. I am still working on that so I don’t discourage them.
As for having them at the stove, the rules are clear:
1) No touch anything! Unless I let them stir with me (both of us holding the spoon / spatula).
2) If I have to walk away from the stove for any reason, the little one has to leave the stove with me. I never leave them there w/o me until I feel they are an age that is safe (about 7 or 8).
I have had a few phases where I haven’t felt “up to” having them in the kitchen with me. They will stop trying to help after a while and lose interest in the process, so I have to remember to come and ask for their help again and get them interested again (cookies almost always work).
If you have been wanting to get your children in your kitchen with you, but still feel a little daunted or unsure after reading these tips, contact me or order my eBook – Teach Your Children To Cook – The Simple, Healthy, Cheap Way! The book starts off with some rules and tips, then has a lesson on pouring, measuring and stirring. Finally, it contains 14 recipes, starting very simple and gradually growing in complexity to do in the kitchen with your children.
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