Young children love to be where the action is, and, during the holidays, that often means in the kitchen. The wafting aromas, hissing of skillets and bubbling of pots hold endless fascination for children, but they also create a danger zone. Fortunately, kids don't have to be banished from the kitchen. Using simple safety techniques can help keep kids participating and helping in this warm place where the family tends to gather, particularly during the holidays.
Teaching doesn't only have to take place in the classroom or at your preschooler's child care center, the kitchen has countless lessons for children to learn and share. Counting and measuring are excellent tasks for children to take on. Additionally, by helping out and taking ownership of dishes the family will enjoy, kids learn a taste of responsibility, which can spread into other areas of their lives.
What can parents do to keep kids safe and happy in the kitchen?
1. Look around for tasks that children can easily help with, without a lot of extra help from grown-ups. Even the simplest jobs like mixing measuring ingredients, mixing and rolling cookie dough or adding spices and sprinkles give kids a great boost of confidence, and allow them to take pride in their work. The holidays offer numerous small tasks for children to take pride in:
-- Opening jars or cans of cranberries
-- Arranging platters of hors d'oeuvres
-- Adding the milk and butter to the mashed potatoes
-- Tearing up lettuce for salads
-- Placing cooled rolls into baskets
Even the youngest kids can feel like they are helping. Give them wooden spoons and mixing bowls, and they can pretend to mix up a batch of pie filling or simply turn them over and drum, creating beautiful music for the family to enjoy.
2. Establish rules. Before the kids are allowed in the kitchen, talk with them about basic safety. Children should always be supervised when they are in the kitchen. Talk with kids about why hand washing is so important. Point out items that can be safely handled by children and which ones are better left for adults. Don't forget to always keep the handles of pots turned inward when they are on the stove. Even adults can accidentally bump a pot handle and knock over a pan full of boiling water. You don't want the holidays marred by a trip to the emergency room.
3. Start slowly, with simple skills, and build them up gradually. This helps the children develop confidence in the kitchen and keeps them from becoming frustrated with tasks that might initially be too challenging. As an example, to teach children cutting tasks, start them off with a plastic knife and simple jobs like spreading soft butter on rolls. Slowly build them up until they can cut harder items like fruits and cheese. Use your best judgment to determine when they are ready for sharper knives.
4. Cooking is messy, and sometimes that's part of the fun. If accidents and spills occur, don't worry about it. Help your child clean it up, and start over.
Let everyone know which dishes your child helped out with as they get passed around the holiday table. Your kids will bask in the praise and be even more eager to help out next time!
See more ideas for getting kids involved in Thanksgiving dinner.
Primrose Schools by Emily Patterson