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January 9, 2007
Tips on Stirring up Some Cooking Fun
By Evelyn Raab
Let's face it: as adults, we're usually cooking because we have to. But to a child, a kitchen is a mad scientist's laboratory. Stuff gets measured and mixed; liquids are poured into beakers; ordinary substances are transformed, as if by magic, into delicious edible wonders. Isn't it time you took on an apprentice or two? A few simple tricks can make it easy and safe for your kids to help you in the kitchen.
Kitchen tips Give them a birds-eye view. Provide each child with a stable step-stool, just high enough to allow them to safely reach the counter or table. Even if there isn't actually anything for them to do, they'll still enjoy watching you cook and it's a great opportunity to chat.
Dress for the job. The right outfit makes all the difference. A kid-sized apron, a mini chef's hat or just one of dad's big old shirts will help keep clothes clean and get your little assistant into the cooking mood.
Get everyone helping. Assign cooking tasks to your kids depending on age, ability and level of experience in the kitchen. Even a toddler can help wash vegetables and tear the ingredients for salads. Three- or four-year-olds can help mix ingredients in a bowl, form the dough for cookies by hand or roll meatballs. Five- to seven-year olds are usually able to measure ingredients, cut veggies and cheese with a blunt knife or even locate ingredients by reading the labels. And children eight years old and up are generally capable of using a microwave or oven with supervision, peeling and cutting up vegetables, shredding cheese and preparing kid-friendly recipes almost entirely by themselves.
Offer some tools. Give your child his or her very own set of measuring cups and spoons. Brightly colored plastic utensils make it fun to measure and mix ingredients. If you have more than one child, make sure each one has a different color to avoid squabbles.
Think small - really small. While you're busy making a family-sized macaroni and cheese casserole, let your child spoon some of the mixture into a tiny baking dish, just for his own personal self. Invest in a miniature muffin pan so your child can make little baby muffins, or pick up a mini loaf pan in which to bake a kid-sized banana bread. Everyone knows that tiny food is just more fun to make and eat.
When in doubt, skewer it! Kids love food on a stick. It's fun to make, fun to eat and looks really cool. Even your littlest cook can spear cubes of cheese, cherry tomatoes or chunks of ham on a bamboo skewer. Arrange them on a plate with a puddle of dipping sauce (try Dijon mustard and mayo or creamy Italian dressing) and voila, appetizers are served.
And finally - keep your sense of humor. Spilled some milk? Dropped an egg? It's all part of the process. After all, cleaning up can be fun too!
Also, don't forget to refer to your Cook'n for Kids CD. This CD is packed with tons of tips for stirring up some cooking fun!
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