By Pat Lamb
It is a good idea to get children in the kitchen as early as possible to begin teaching them some basics of food handling. After all, we all have to eat to survive and someone has to prepare the food, so everyone---both girls and boys---need to learn to prepare food.
Children can help with small tasks at a very early age. They can help set the table for meals, stir things like salads, and even wash some pans. Even if some of the work has to be done over, they are beginning to learn.
One of the first things to teach young children about cooking is cleanliness. They need to be taught to always wash hands before handling food. A good way to help them be thorough with washing their hands is to have them sing the Happy Birthday Song while rubbing hands with soap and water. When they have scrubbed for the duration of the song, they hopefully have clean hands. Small children usually have dirt under the fingernails and they need to be taught to use a brush or other instrument to remove the dirt. In addition, they need to be taught not to touch the hair, nose, face, or anything that might have germs while working with food.
Here is an easy recipe that even small children can do. The nice thing about it is that they can use it like play dough to be creative in making animals, etc. and then enjoy eating it. It is a nutritious food that is especially good for children who are not allergic to peanuts or are not obese.
Edible Play Dough (Cookies)
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup peanut butter
½ cup honey
(A non-breakable bowl would be best to use to mix the ingredients.) Combine dry powdered milk, peanut butter, and honey in bowl. Mix with hands until smooth.
Make animals, people, or funny shapes. Eat the results.
(Be sure the surface area is clean when making the shapes. To make fur on animals, roll in coconut. Raisins can be used for eyes.)
Even though many parents buy toy kitchen equipment for children to play with, I always preferred to let my children work in a real kitchen. I never saw the wisdom of spending all that money on toy cabinets, dishes, pans, etc. when the real thing was available for the children. Children love to have grown-ups spend time with them. What better way to spend time with the children than in the kitchen making something useful?