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So your kids want to be the next world-famous chef or baker, and they dream of having their own cooking show on TV or owning a five-star restaurant. That’s great, especially if you have a garden filled with fresh produce, ready to be pick. Before you let your kids cook in the kitchen, teach them the skills they need to keep themselves safe. By teaching kids proper food hygiene, safe food prep techniques, and fire safety, you allow them to explore ways to prepare good food but also ensure the health and well-being of everyone who eats what they create.
Fresh Ingredients At Your Fingertips
Cooking together is a great way to bond, but so is growing your own veggies. In fact, gardening is beneficial for your child’s mind, body, and soul by encouraging learning, physical activity, and a sense of purpose. Teach your child how a seed becomes a vegetable, and encourage them to give each one a taste. Even if they don’t like a particular veggie, use this as an opportunity to show them how it can be “hidden” in a tasty recipe. Don’t forget to reiterate the importance of washing all produce before using it to cook with.
One of the first kitchen safety lessons kids should learn is the importance of washing their hands before any cooking begins. It’s important to wash hands with warm water and soap in order to kill the germs living on our skin. If we don’t, we can contaminate food with bacteria and cause people to get sick when they eat the food we prepare. Teach your little cooks to wash their hands for at least 20 seconds to make sure their hands are sparkling clean. If they sing their ABCs, that should be just enough time to ensure any nasty germs are washed away.
Clean as You Go
Good cooks clean the kitchen as they go. Immediately mop up any spills on the floor. You don’t want anyone falling in the kitchen. It’s also a good idea to remove clutter from the counter tops to avoid bacteria and allergens from contaminating counter surfaces and food.
Handling Raw Foods
Teach your young chefs the importance of washing their hands before and after handling raw food, especially meats. The bacteria on raw food like fish, poultry, eggs, and meat can make us sick. Always wash cutting boards with soap and water immediately after using it to cut raw food, and never chop veggies on a cutting board that has been used to cut raw meat, fish or poultry. The bacteria from the raw protein will contaminate the vegetables. Teach kids that if they end up getting raw meat, fish or poultry bacteria into their mouths, they can get sick.
And even though it looks and smells yummy, teach your kiddos not to eat raw batter or cookie dough. Since cookie dough contains raw eggs, it also carries the danger of bacteria. In fact, you could end up with a serious foodborne illness because the ingredients in the dough could contain pathogens like E. coli and salmonella.
Never let young children handle chef knives, as they can easily cut themselves. Instead, start them out with a kid-friendly knife or just a plastic knife that actually cuts. Older kids can use your upgraded cutlery under your supervision; before they do, instruct them to handle knives by tucking their fingers and cutting meats and veggies with the blade pointing away from them.
Using the Stove and Oven
When using the oven or stove, remind kids that they should always use pot holders and oven mitts to remove dishes from the oven or pots from the stovetop. If they use pots and pans on top of the stove, the pot handles should be turned toward the back of the stovetop. This way, any people walking by won’t accidentally bump into the handles, causing the pots to fall off the stove and cause a burn injury.
Avoiding a Kitchen Fire
Kitchen fires are scary and dangerous, but there are several things you can do to prevent one. Always supervise young chefs when they’re cooking or baking, and never leave the kitchen while food is cooking. Make sure your kids don’t wear loose clothing and that long hair is tied back while they cook, as loose clothing and loose hair can easily catch fire. Remind them not to keep flammable materials near the stove. This includes food packaging, oven mitts, kitchen towels, pot holders, wooden spoons and anything else that can easily catch on fire.
Of course, an adult should always be in the house when kids are cooking. But all kids should also know what to do if there’s a kitchen fire. Childproof the kitchen by making sure babies can’t open the oven door or climb up to the stovetop. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen for any emergencies, and never try to fight a kitchen fire with water. Water merely feeds the flames.
Through a combination of fresh ingrediants picked from their garden to safe handling of food and cooking practices, kids can prosper in the kitchen and may well end up becoming a famous chef.