Kitchen Tips for Little Bakers!

Keep fun and safety in mind

Kitchen tips for little bakers

Children who learn to enjoy food preparation at a young age might be more inclined to cook for themselves and become less dependent on convenience or fast foods as adults, according to Becky Gorham, registered dietitian and research nutritionist with the USDA/ARS Children's Research Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

"Young children love to help, and they really take pride in showing adults how much they can do. By inviting them to assist with food preparation, parents can help build their children's self-esteem, as well as skills, creativity, and knowledge of food and nutrition," says Gorham.

She offers these tips:
  • Teach children to wash their hands before and after preparing any food
  • Read recipes before starting and decide what tasks small hands can do. Assemble all ingredients and equipment
  • Small children have short attention spans, so choose recipes that are simple and offer lots of opportunities to stir, add ingredients, and decorate

  • Keep nutrition in mind. Fruit and nut breads, oatmeal and peanut butter cookies, carrot and fresh apple cakes, and peanut-dense peanut brittle are more nutritious treats than high-fat brownies and fudge. Decorate cookies with dried fruits and nuts. It's also a good time to experiment with fat-and calorie-cutting strategies, such as using egg whites or egg substitutes instead of whole eggs, replacing some solid shortening with applesauce, and replacing some whole milk or cream with evaporated skim milk
  • Expect a mess. Place an old bed sheet or newspapers over the area where small chefs are working. Cut down on cleanup by teaching children to stay organized and "clean as you go."
  • Give older children lessons on using the can opener, measuring ingredients, setting timers, and reading recipes. Older children can also help locate and assemble ingredients and equipment before baking begins
  • Kitchens can be dangerous if children are not well supervised. Children who cannot reach the counter should stand on a sturdy stepstool, not a chair. Teach young children to avoid touching hot baking pans, ovens, and sharp knives. Instruct older children to turn pot handles toward the back of the stove, wipe up floor spills immediately, and use padded potholders to remove hot pans from the oven
With these simple tips, junior chefs and parents alike can have a happy and healthy baking experience!