From the Extension: Create lifelong holiday memories with safe fun in the kitchen

FRANKLIN LIVING – November/December 2022

Teaching does not always happen in the classroom; it can take place right in your kitchen. The kitchen can be the site for numerous lessons and skills for children, such as vocabulary and reading, math, science, decision-making, comparisons and social skills. Helping with a holiday meal can give children a sense of responsibility. Cooking can also help children learn about nutritious foods, budgeting and cleaning.

During the holidays, the action is found in the kitchen, and we all know children love to be where the action is.

Even though the smell and the noise of food sizzling and baking can be captivating to children, it can also create a high risk of harm. By using simple safety techniques, however, children can still take part in holiday meal preparation.

WAYS TO KEEP CHILDREN
SAFE AND HAPPY IN THE KITCHEN
DURING THE HOLIDAYS

Remember, no kids in the kitchen until rules are established. Have a talk with them about kitchen safety, handwashing and why only an adult can handle certain items.

Confidence is important. Start with simple skills and gradually build up to larger tasks. When children are confident, they will move forward with other tasks in the kitchen and not back away from them.

Look for tasks children can easily help with – without a lot of extra help from an adult. Even the simplest jobs, like measuring and mixing ingredients, can build a child’s confidence and help create a sense of pride.

Assign tasks of a holiday recipe based on abilities. This will help keep your children enthusiastic about cooking. For example:

  • 5- and 6-year-olds can stir instant pudding, snap green beans, prepare lettuce for a salad, press cookie cutters and pour liquids into batter.
  • 7- and 8-year-olds can rinse vegetables, shuck corn, mix and shake ingredients, beat eggs and measure dry ingredients.
  • 9- and 10-year-olds can knead bread dough, stir hot mixtures, blend batters, broil foods in a toaster oven and cut foods with a table knife.
  • 10-year-olds and older can slice or chop vegetables, boil potatoes, microwave foods, bake foods in the oven and simmer ingredients on the stove.

Cooking has so many benefits. Preparing this year’s holiday meal can help children learn through a broad range of learning styles such as tasting, feeling, smelling, observing, reading and listening. Remember to praise your child and let everyone know what dishes he or she helped with during the food preparation.

This is a great family fun time that allows a parent and child to bond and create life long holiday memories.


Katernia Cole-Coffey is director of the Franklin County Cooperative Extension. To reach the Extension call 256-332-8880.

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