The idea of having the kids work side by side with you in the kitchen can seem almost dreamy until you find yourself screaming things like:
"Don't touch that!"
"Put that down!"
"You are going to lose a finger!"
Next thing you know, you are frustrated, nobody is having any fun and you end up chasing everyone out of the kitchen because it will be that much easier to just do it yourself. (I have been there.)
But that isn't what we really want to happen.
We want our kids in the kitchen. We want them hands on with food and kitchen tools. We want them creating snacks and meals they can be excited about.
Let's take a minute to remember what our kids get out of cooking healthy meals in the kitchen with us.
- Kids become more familiar with healthy foods and are more likely to try a wider variety of food when they are involved in cooking.
- Kids pick up good practices you model and learn skills they will keep for a lifetime.
- Kids start to associate cooking as a positive experience (if we are doing it right).
- Kids learn to appreciate the time and energy that goes into food preparation.
- The family can enjoy quality time together, having a chance to talk and bond.
In order to get kids experiencing all of the good that comes out of being in the kitchen and make the occasions positive and memorable experiences for everyone, just keep in mind some simple safety rules that keep everyone safe and the kitchen running smoothly.
Kitchen Safety Check for the Grown Ups:
- Put all tech devices, other than any being used to display a recipe, far, far away. Distractions in the kitchen can be dangerous. Besides, you have some awesome family time happening. Don't miss it by checking emails.
- Make sure all appliances not being used are unplugged and out of the way.
- Unplug any appliances that will be used for cooking. (I only plug them in when we are ready to use them and I am there.) They should only be used with your supervision.
- Be accountable for all sharp items including knives and peelers, etc. Know what is in reach of the children. Remove anything not needed for the current recipe.
- Take special precautions if the oven or stove are in use. (I like to place myself between the stove and the kids. If they are helping me at the stove, they have my full attention so as to keep them safe.)
- Turn all pot and pan handles INTO the stove. Handles hanging over the edge can be grabbed, bumped and spilled.
- Clear away any clutter or items not necessary for cooking.
Before inviting kids to join you in the kitchen, step back and take a good look at the cooking environment. Ensure that it is clutter free, clean, and set up with only the necessary tools and kitchen items. Consider setting up the kitchen with work stations prior to children joining you. I share some useful tips for this in Healthy Kids Thrive in the Kitchen (3 Ways to Get You Started).
Kitchen Safety Rules for the Mini Chefs:
- Wash hands, pull back hair and put on aprons BEFORE getting started.
- Work at your assigned station.
- If you spill, clean it up.
- Ask questions when you are unsure or curious.
- Have a grown up's help when using knives or sharp objects.
- Use the stove with a grown up.
- Only sample with permission. (Raw ingredients can be dangerous.)
- Have fun and enjoy the delicious food you create!
If you want the rules you set with the children to be extra effective, take a few minutes to create those rules TOGETHER when age appropriate. You can use this list as a guide for things you might want to cover.
Grab a piece of paper, a dry erase board, anything. Sit together and brainstorm some ways that you all think would keep everyone safe when you cook together. Write everything down and then post your collaborative list somewhere visible once you begin. Refer to it whenever you need to.
Each of these lists could have been doubled or tripled in length, but I wanted to give you the enough basics to get started. Even still, think about what additional considerations you might need based on your own kitchen set up, the recipe and the age of your children.
It is funny how a few simple rules and considerations can make the kitchen adventures run smoothly and can ensure a lot of fun and learning for everyone. I hope that you can use some of the safety rules here and maybe some more of your own, as a foundation that allows you to make some great memories with your little chefs.
If you are ready for more awesome ideas, accountability and support, I have 2 fantastic options for you (and you can take them BOTH!) 1. Join The Real Moms's Collaborative Facebook group. This is a brand new group and already a beautiful community of moms building a healthier life for themselves and their families one step at a time. And 2. sign up for my newsletter and get a FREE COPY of BE A HEALTHIER MOM IN 30 DAYS! (That is a little BONUS from me to you!) You will get tips, advice and support right in your inbox.
Thank you for reading! Until next time!