By Dan Gilbert on behalf of Primrose Schools, preschool services and early childhood education that have helped children build a solid foundation for their future education and success.
Holiday cooking and baking — the cookies, the appetizers, and the big feast — should be a family affair. When small children are a part of the family, it’s tempting to usher them out of the kitchen in the name of safety. Don’t give in to the temptation. Holiday cooking is the stuff lifelong memories are made of, and instilling a love of cooking helps create healthy, self-sufficient adults.
Welcome children in your holiday kitchen, but be mindful of the dangers. Done well, your family time in the kitchen will not only enrich your children, it will also provide you with some much-needed help.
Follow these simple rules for keeping children safe in the kitchen while having fun this holiday:
1. Supervise. This is not a free-for-all, so set down the ground rules before you even start. Start with hand-washing and putting on aprons; if you don’t have an apron for your little one, drape a dish towel around her waist and secure it with a safety pin. Set a kid station away from the stove, where young ones can do prep work while parents are in charge of the oven and stove top.
2. Start with simple tasks. Your preschooler isn’t going to be able to whip up a batch of cookie dough, but she can count the eggs you need and help you crack them into the bowl. A child can be in charge of the timer, can measure sugar or salt and can help mix the batter.
3. Teach the basics. Pots and pans on the stove are very hot and must not be touched. The oven stays shut until the timer goes off, and only an adult should open it then. Knives and small appliances like mixers and food processors are not toys.
4. Develop skills safely. As your child gets older, allow her to learn more advanced techniques such as cutting vegetables with a knife. Start with a dull table knife — and soft vegetables and fruits such as mushrooms or strawberries — and work your way up to a real, honest-to-goodness kitchen knife. Remember, the good habits she learns with you at a young age will make her future slicing and dicing safer.
5. Stay Light. Some of the most memorable moments of holiday cooking by adults are not the times that everything went perfectly, they’re the times when something was unexpected, even if that something made a mess of things. Keep your cool when a whole dish of sprinkles or a piecrust hits the floor, and improvise a solution with your child.
6. Communicate. Ask your child what she wants to do, and allow her to do it, within reason. Don’t make a child do the drudgery you don’t want to do, but make them a productive part of the kitchen team.
7. Clean as you go. A cluttered kitchen invites accidents.
Once your meal or treat is finished, be sure to give your child credit for her part. Before you know it, you’ll have the best little kitchen helper in the world- throughout the whole year, no just the holidays!
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