Cooking with kids is brilliant for them and you in many ways, but you really only want the oven to get hot in the kitchen–not your temper–so read up on these top tips first:
Knives, Chopping, and Other Hazardous Jobs
Most projects on this site will give the grown-ups a chopping job to do, while your mini yummer gets on with a more exciting task. Small regular dinner knives are usually fine for most chopping jobs that kids will do with softer items such as bananas and mushrooms, and with some recipes it’s just as easy for your little cook to grate the harder vegetables (depending on their age). And there are some safer alternatives for other jobs:
This is my own super-cool way, but still requires some adult supervision. Throw your garlic clove into a pan (with the purple/pink skin still on) for five minutes on a moderate heat–this helps to soften the garlic. Take the garlic out of the pan and allow to cool for another five minutes. Snip off the pointy end of the garlic with scissors, and squeeze the garlic clove out of the skin. Mash the peeled garlic with a fork, and job done! (Most recipes with garlic will also be using onions, and it’s fine to throw it all in the same pan, so your garlic is getting soft as your onions are cooking.)
Depending on the herb, your mini yummer can either snip it with scissors (with soft herbs, e.g. chives, coriander, parsley) or just tear it into pieces (for herbs that bruise easily, e.g. basil and mint). For tougher herbs like rosemary and thyme, you can grab one end of the stalk and slide your other hand around and down the stalk to dislodge the leaves. You can even buy special herb scissors that are designed for the job, are easier to hold than regular scissors, and that cut with five blades at a time. No knives needed!
Easiest way for kids to grate cheese (and other things)
Bigger kids should be safe using a countertop grater with a handle at the top, but the best gadget for kids to grate with is a mouli grater–this can be used to grate pretty much anything without their fingers going anywhere near the blades.
Easy peelers are your answer here, and I don’t mind admitting that this is what I use for peeling fruit and veggies, just because it’s so much easier than using a knife. The handle should be nice and grippy for little hands, and you might want to mark with a pen or a sticker, which side of the handle should face up. Cutting veg and fruit down into pieces that are easier to hold will also help your mini yummer get to grips with peeling.
An obvious one, but crucial when kids are in the kitchen. Establish a few rules, such as them asking permission to pass a certain point in the kitchen–usually near the oven and/or hob–you can even put a small piece of tape on the floor, to mark the point. It should go without saying that you instill the most important rule of cooking into their yummy brains:
Before you start, wash your hands!
Nudge, don’t Meddle
It’s important that you are there as support, but let your little chefs take charge. However, always be keeping an eye on them when they are doing jobs such as weighing out ingredients–recipes can go disastrously wrong if you are using them in the wrong quantities. If a recipe turns out wrong then it can put kids off wanting to bother next time, so a gentle “how much flour does it say?” is worthwhile to nudge them in the right direction.
It’s much better to question, rather than tell them that they are doing something wrong–it’s less confrontational and allows them to work out the problem for themselves.
There’s nothing that throws kids for a loop more, than having washed their hands and got their aprons than when you say you have to go to the shops as you don’t have something you were sure you had in that cupboard!
Get them to gather everything together first, and do any weighing that needs to be done. A new trick I’ve started to use is to get them to take a photo of all the ingredients before they start. You can then compare it with the finished result at the end, so they get a real idea of how magical cooking is, that they have transformed all those ingredients into something yummers.
Are there are any other tips you need? Or do you have any to share yourself? Please drop a comment in the box below–we’d love to hear from you and your mini yummers 🙂
As with all jobs in the kitchen involving children, you should make sure they are supervised by an adult at all times.