A great way to get and teach little ones to eat right is by getting them into the kitchen, having them learn about the various types of foods and the basics of cooking in a first-hand experience. Cooking is a life skill that will be taken with them down the road, a valuable skill that teaches them about kitchen safety and nutrition. Aside from learning how to prepare meals, learning how to cook will have them picking up on other essential skills as well such as science, literacy, math and fine motor skills. Teaching a toddler the basics of cooking can get pretty messy, especially without a well thought out guideline but worries aside for BrilliantTots brings you a guideline that will have your little one learning basic cooking skills at the right pace.
But first, here are some safety tips:
- Ensure that your little one’s hair is always pulled back or put in a ponytail
- Have them wash their hands in warm water and soap before they engage in any preparation – This will teach them the habit of staying hygienic when food is involved
- Keep sharp utensils out of reach
- Be vary of hot pots and pans, have your little one keep their distance from any hot surfaces or fire
- Keep an eye on them, make sure they’re not dipping their fingers into dishes – Hot dishes can have them hurting themselves
- Raw ingredients such as raw chicken or fish should be kept out of their reach, some little ones may be tempted to sneak a piece of raw food in their mouths – Teach them that eating certain raw ingredients can make them sick
- Keep countertops clean and tidy
- Teach them to wait for the dish to cool down before tasting – Nobody likes getting their tongues or the roofs of their mouths burned
Talk to kids about proper food storage and hand hygiene. Discuss what foods can be consumed raw and what needs to be cooked thoroughly. Even when they are too young to do much cooking themselves, talk to them about what you’re doing.
- Wash fruits and vegetables – Teach them about the importance of washing produce, demonstrate how to clean them well and let them have a go!
- Peel foods that are soft to the touch like hard-boiled eggs or bananas – Now peeling eggs can be a little tricky, so you’ll want to prepare an extra batch for your little one to get it right. Teaching your little ones to peel bananas is a great first-day lesson.
- Pour liquids measure ingredients – Have your little ones pour in liquids into the mix, make sure the liquids are not hot (warm is fine). They may not get the measurements right at first but let them have a couple of tries, practice makes perfect after all.
- Stir and mix – Another easy first-day lesson, hand them a stirring utensil and let them have a whirl! Heads up, it may get a little messy with the batter being splattered everywhere.
- Assemble a sandwich – Have them assemble a sandwich with prepared ingredients but let them have fun with it and assemble it to their liking.
- Mash! – Hand them a masher and have them press down on boiled potatoes or avocados.
Take it to the next level
- Heating up – Once your little one has mastered beginner basics, teach them how to use the microwave to heat up different types of food. Have them work their up to the more difficult foods to heat like soups and liquids.
- Greasing a skillet or pan – When fire and heat come into play, revisit the safety expectations, monitor to avoid any burns. Have them either oil the skillet or throw in a knob of butter into the pan.
- Toast bread – Teach how to operate a toaster and have them give it a try by themselves, ensure they are aware of the heat that is emitted by the toaster and the toasted bread.
- Peel – Get them to learn how to use peelers, remember to teach them to keep a slow pace to avoid accidents. Start with fruits and veggies that have an easier grip such as carrots and apples.
- Grate – After peeling the carrot, have them grate the carrot. We would suggest to only let them do two-thirds of the food they’re grating and to take over to prevent any injuries.
- Knives out! – When you feel your little one is ready, start introducing them to the knife. We would recommend beginning training with a child safety knife and slowly work it up to the real thing. Teach them about the dangers and the incredible uses of a knife in the kitchen. Have them start by cutting ingredients and foods that are soft. If you feel your little one may be a tad bit accident-prone then invest in some finger guards to prevent any injuries.
- Whip out the skillet – Have your little one cook! and what better way to start than with some scrambled eggs. The recipe involves little effort and it incorporates some of the other lessons into one such as breaking the eggs, stirring, greasing the pan and etc.
When your kids are ready for more, find simple recipes online for them to try. Talk about reading the entire recipe before beginning to ensure all ingredients and necessary supplies are on hand. Give them space to work the process themselves but stay close to make sure they don’t burn the dish—or the house down! Kids need reminders, so knife safety, oven and stove safety and basic kitchen rules should be reinforced multiple times. Teach your own personal family rules. Consider enrolling your budding chef in an age-appropriate cooking class. They’ll have fun and will come home with recipes and skills that will surprise and delight you. Cooking with kids isn’t just a great way to teach self-sufficiency. Food is a powerful component in culture and family, and in many ways, food is an expression of love. Giving children the skills to cook is a gift they can enjoy throughout their entire life.