Sharing the Kitchen with your Child

Once a child has developed a positive attitude towards the kitchen and towards food, and he/she reaches a manageable age, perhaps as early as 2 ½ – 3 years, it is time to allow her/him in the kitchen.  It is important to remember that teaching a child to cook is not an ‘overnight’ process but requires many progressive steps over the years which will grow and increase in complexity as the child grows.  Someone once asked my oldest son how he learn to cook so well and his response was that he learned by ‘osmosis’.  To this end, when you first introduce your child to the kitchen, just allow him/her to watch and enjoy the experience.  Your child will let you know when she/he is ready to start helping.

When beginning to teach your child to cook it is important to remember to let you child do things that are within her/his capabilities and that can be done by the child without evoking criticism on the part of the parent.  When you do need to correct your child try to be as non-threatening and constructive as possible.  Unpleasant occurrences will only discourage children and cause them to dislike working in the kitchen.  When children first begin to do new things, they may be awkward and have some difficulty, but if the tasks are simple enough there shouldn’t be any problems.

Start out with small jobs that can be finished in a short amount of time; it does not take much to make a child happy, to make him feel that he has done something which has been constructive.  One of the simplest ways of letting your child begin to help is to let him/her help load and unload the silverware compartment of the dishwasher or help to set or clear the table.  These acts will introduce the children to the tasks of cleanup and preparation as well.  By making it seem to be fun, they will not think of them as unpleasant tasks later on when they are older.

Other simple ways in which the child can help is be being allowed to put ingredients such as raisins, chocolate chips or nuts into [amazon ASIN=B002Q1PQI2]measuring cups[/amazon] and/or the mixing bowl.  Children can help fill muffin pans, roll out and cut cookies or shape yeast rolls and they can help make drop cookies such as chocolate chip or oatmeal.  If you feel that allowing your children to help will take too much of your time, remember that a child’s attention span is short, that at first probably 5 minutes of helping will satisfy him/her.  Also remember that the small children who are allowed into the kitchen today, will grow and develop skills and capabilities that will grow right along with them and your toddler today may be the teen of tomorrow who will love to cook and will be a great asset to you later on.  The minutes you spend with your child now may save you hours in the future.

[amazon ISBN=B002OSMIA6]Child-sized equipment[/amazon] , such as aprons and baking sets can be purchased in cookware shops or on-line.  Providing such equipment for your children will make it less awkward for them to do things like rolling out dough and cutting out cookies and also make them feel important, that like an adult, they have their own tools.  And Remember!  Like toys, these are tools designed as learning equipment for the child.

When your child does help, remember to give him/her lots of encouragement for each task accomplished.  Let the family members know what the child has done and encourage the family to recognize the child’s accomplishments.  Also, remember that the slightest thing you children do successfully will make them feel that they are contributing members of the family, enabling them to feel very good about themselves and in addition, gain in self-esteem and confidence.

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