Herald Journal Columns
August 7, 2006, Herald Journal

Kids in the kitchen


Summer is a good time to continue to introduce children to cooking and chores in the kitchen. Most children love helping out in the kitchen, preparing recipes, meals, or dishes.

When kids are involved in the meal-planning process, they will take an even greater interest in cooking and nutrition. As the website http://allrecipes noted, if children are involved in the meal-preparation process, you may even stop hearing the “ewww, not that again,” when it’s time to sit down to eat.

Get children in the habit of cleaning up as they are helping in the kitchen by teaching children to put away ingredients as soon as they are finished with them and to clean up as they go. It makes the job of cleaning up not seem as overwhelming.

Cooking also involves many skills, including reading, measuring, math fundamentals, and fine motor skills, which are all important skills for children to continue to work on. You can even have children read the recipe, determine the ingredients needed, make a list, and go shopping with you.

While we’re spending time with our kids in the kitchen, it’s important, as well as a good time to teach them about cooking and preparing foods safely. Here are some things that we should teach children, and remember to do, ourselves, when we are cooking with our children.

• Wash hands with soap and warm water before cooking or preparing food.

• Keep hands away from face, hair, and pets, and if you do touch the pet, wash your hands again.

• Always pick up a knife (and scissors, etc.) by its handle, and don’t ever try to catch a falling knife, or put a dirty knife in a sink full of water. Keep your hand on the handle, and never on the blade, and always cut with the blade facing away from you.

It’s a good idea to have kids use small serrated knives, always supervised by you or another adult when cutting. Using a pizza cutter for cutting many foods also is a good alternative to using a knife. If children will be helping with the cutting process, supervise, and have them cut soft foods.

• Keep temperature of hot water below 120 degrees F.

• Turn handles of pots and pans toward the center of stove to avoid accidental bumps and spills, making sure also that handles never rest over another burner or hot pan.

• Splattering grease can hurt, so teach kids that tossing water or wet ingredients into a pan with hot oil can cause bad splatters.

• Always use potholders or oven mitts when handling something hot, and make sure the potholders are not wet.

• Tie long hair back so it won’t get in the way.

Most of these tips are from the websites, www.activityvillage.co.uk and http://allrecipes.com.

Children of all ages can have fun helping in the kitchen. Small ones can help wash vegetables and fruits, as well as stir items. Elementary-aged children can do more tasks and can even make their own snacks. Pre-teens can handle making simple meals with your help choosing recipes that are appropriate and helping them make sure they have all the appropriate ingredients.

There are fun cookbooks out there that are illustrated and have pictures. Using no-cook recipes with children is also a good idea.

Kid friendly recipes

Here are some recipes from the websites that are easy to use with children.

• Make bananas-on-a-stick, by peeling a banana, cutting it in half crosswise, and inserting a Popsicle stick in the flat end. Spread banana with peanut butter. Crush a few graham crackers into crumbs and roll the banana covered with peanut butter in the graham cracker crumbs. A great taste combination,

Banana pops are good, too. Peel a banana, dip it into melted chocolate or low fat yogurt, roll in crushed nuts, and freeze on cookie sheet.

• Make fruit kebabs. Skewer pieces of fruit, vegetables, and cheese onto thin pretzels. Make a fruit dip to go with the fruit by combining an 8-ounce package of cream cheese, softened, and one or two 7-ounce jars of marshmallow crème. If you would like, you can add dashes of lemon juice, orange juice concentrate, vanilla, or any other ingredient you and your children would like to add, to spruce up the fruit dip.

• Use cookie cutters to cut shapes from bread, and spread the shapes with peanut butter or add meat and cheese to make sandwiches.

• Make yogurt shakes and drinks with yogurt, fruit, ice, and milk or juice. Put ingredients in a blender and puree.

The website, http://appetizer.allrecipes.com suggested this fun and simple kids’ appetizer – an apple ladybug treat. Spread a cut apple with peanut butter and put raisins on top. Put two small pretzel sticks into the apple, and you’ve got a delicious apple ladybug treat.

Have fun cooking!

Jenni Sebora has a bachelor of science degree in special education, and a master of science degree in education, with a coaching certification. She has taught in the public school system for 14 years, and has coached a variety of sports at all levels.

Jenni was a children’s program leader for Family Support Network/Parents’ Anonymous, for a local chapter, for 10 years and was the children’s program resource coordinator for the Minnesota Family Support Network/Prevent Child Abuse organization, for southern Minnesota chapters. She has conducted many trainings on dealing with children, children’s activities, and behavioral management.

Jenni has worked in day care settings, served as a Sunday school teacher, summer recreation director, and on the board of education at her church. She and her husband, Marc, have three children.