My daughter and I do a lot of cooking together. There are so many benefits to getting our kids (the Perfect Assistant) involved in the kitchen, not the least of which is that it provides an activity that we can do together away from all the screens they love!!
When she was really young, I started her off with mixing and pouring. She loved it, and I felt reasonably sure that she was safe doing these things. Of course, I expected that she would make a few messes, and I was ready for that. I even regularly set her up on the floor with a huge towel, lots of bowls, spoons, flour, water, cornstarch and let her go to town!! As she has gotten older, I have found myself struggling with allowing her to do things in the kitchen that she felt she could do. For example, tasks I’m not ready to give up include peeling potatoes, using a julienne cutter, etc. Even cooking teachers, who are moms, are moms first and safety is the foremost on our minds!!
I’ve conceded on a few kitchen tasks that she can now do well, and that I have gotten my nerves out of the way to let her try. If you feel comfortable, maybe you can try some of these out.
1) “Washing dishes”
This is one that I truly had to work up to. It made me so nervous to allow her access to hot water, breakable dishes and my dish soap! But, with a few modifications, like taking sharp knives away, fragile dishes out and a bit of deep breathing (on my part), I found that she was able to keep the temperature of the water warm, and enjoy the soapy sensation of moving the sponge back and forth on the dishes. She had lots more fun doing the dishes than I ever do!
2) Peeling carrots
This is one that she was ready for before I was ready to let her try. Peeling potatoes was tricky and unwieldy because of the shape. But carrots were easier. I showed her how to place the peeler level onto the side of the carrot, and then move the peeler away from her fingers towards the table. It was pretty easy for her to glide the peeler down the length of the carrots and I felt safe letting her do it (after some time, if I’m honest).
3) Cracking eggs
Perhaps like many of you, I was worried that if I let her crack the egg she would somehow ingest it and wind up with salmonella poisoning! So, my prevention was a bit of scare tactics long before I ever let her touch an egg! I made a BIG deal of how dangerous raw egg is, and how we can NEVER touch raw egg without washing our hands immediately. In my classes, I have a wet wipe at the ready when I let the kids (who have proven themselves to be good listeners) crack an egg. I show the kids how to open the egg like they’re opening a book, and most of the time that works!
In time, I know that my daughter and all the other kids I teach will be competent assistants. For now, I know they just want to be near mom and be helpful! And that’s (usually) fine with me!
Sharon NDiaye teaches “Cooking with Kids,” hands-on international cooking classes for small chefs 3-6 years old and 7-10 years old, with an emphasis on providing new experiences and introduction to new foods.
Sharon teaches at New Era Creative Space (NECS) in Peekskill and “Cooking Around the World” at preschools and elementary schools. Check www.necspace.com for class schedule. Sharon also leads private cooking and baking classes, small group classes, cooking birthday parties, as well as cooking enrichment classes for scout troops.
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