When I was growing up, my mom made virtually every meal from scratch. We had a breakfast nook at the opposite end of the kitchen and my sister and I would sit and watch mom cook. As we got older, mom would let us help her in the kitchen. We started with simple tasks like helping mom get food from the fridge or rinsing off vegetables and fruit. We each had a little step stool and we would flank mom, one on either side while we worked at the sink. Before we were allowed to cook, we were taught basic safety tips. Mom was a stickler for making sure we knew how to move about the kitchen safely. Once we proved we could be trusted around the stove, mom taught us how to do basic prep for the food we would be eating. She began showing us how to clean and cut vegetables and fruits as well as how to measure. Here is what we learned.
- Supervision: Never let your children be alone in the kitchen until they are old enough to be trusted. We were probably 10 before mom would allow us to make simple items to cook and even then, she sat at the breakfast nook watching. This is the most important of the kitchen safety and cooking tips for children we learned.
- Basic Safety: Next, make sure your kids know the basics in safety in the kitchen. Show them where the fire extinguisher is and how to use it, how to call 911 in case of fire and to wear short sleeves and an apron. Make sure children use oven mitts, know how to turn the handles of pans inward and never leave pots unattended.
- Cleaning: Make sure kids know to clean as they go. This will not only keep them from contaminating surfaces, but it cuts down on their clean up time in the end.
- Food Handling: Food handling is just as important as any rule in the kitchen. Make sure kids know to wash their hands before they begin working in the kitchen. This stops the spread of germs and bacteria. If they handle raw meat or poultry, make sure they wash their hands as well as the surface they were on. Make sure raw food is kept separate from cooked food and not to put metal in the microwave.
- Food Prep: Make sure kids know to wash fruits and vegetables before they eat them or use them in a recipe. When cutting food, make sure you use kid friendly products like those from Curious Chef. We use the Six-Piece Curious Chef Fruit and Veggie Prep Kit, which retails for $25 from the Curious Chef website, Amazon, Everything Kitchens and other retailers.
- Cutting Fruits: When cutting fruits, much of what you need is common sense. For instance, when cutting a banana, you would just peel it and cut the banana into uniform slices. For apples, we use the Apple Slicer from Curious Chef. You just place the slicer on top of your and push down using the handles until slicer cuts completely through apple. For melons, we slice the melon in half using the Nylon Plastic Knife. Then you press the Melon Baller into the melon, twist the baller clockwise and you get a perfect circle.
- Cutting Vegetables: This was one of the most important lessons my mom taught me in the kitchen and I have passed her tips down to my kids. Before cutting our vegetables, we use the Vegetable Scrubber from Curious Chef. Then using our Nylon Plastic Knife, we carefully cut our favorite vegetables, including carrots, celery, onions, mushrooms, broccoli and peppers.
For carrots, we use the Curious Chef Vegetable Peeler. Just hold the carrot in your non-dominant hand and slide the peeler down the side, away from you, rotating until the carrot is totally peeled. For an onion, you peel it and then cut it in half. Cut the onion lengthwise about 1/3 of the way down and repeat this step evenly to the opposite side. Turn the onion and repeat the process. Turn the onion on its side and carefully slice down the length of the onion. You should get a nice and evenly diced onion. For peppers, cut the top and the bottom off and set aside. Turn the pepper on its side and make one vertical slice. Open the pepper, skin side down and carefully cut the ribs and seeds out. Now you have a rectangle of pepper to slice evenly into thin strips.
We have really enjoyed working together in the kitchen with out Curious Chef 6 Piece Fruit and Veggie Prep Kit. The kit comes with the nylon plastic knife, silicone mixing spoon, an apple shaped slicer, a vegetable scrubber, fruit and vegetable peeler and melon baller. I love how durable the pieces are and they are made with BPA free plastic and the tools are easy to grasp with their soft touch button grips. The contoured handles are ergonomically correct for little hands and they have rounded corners and guarded cutting surfaces for added safety.
The kit also comes with a grocery list so the kids can help plan for their next shopping trip as well as a set of cute Curious Chef® stickers. The kids have a great understanding of how to be safe in the kitchen and they are able to do basic food handling and prep. Now I can sit back and relax and eat my delicious salad the kids made for me! Be sure to follow Curious Chef on Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.
Do your kids help in the kitchen, and if so, what do they do?