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What Your Budding Chef Needs to Know in the Kitchen

Budding chefs are preparing their lunches and snacks this summer and many times it is more than heating something up in the microwave.


4-Her practicing knife skills at Quad County Camp
4-Hers practiced their knife skills at Quad County Camp this past week.

Budding chefs are preparing their lunches and snacks this summer and many times it is more than heating something up in the microwave. Kids and cooking go hand-in-hand; it’s like creating their own edible craft project. Cooking can be fun, as well as help develop self-esteem and can turn those picky eaters into new adventurers.

These chefs need to know that good food starts with safety and sanitary habits. Proper hand washing with soap and warm water before beginning to cook, and keeping work areas clean by washing down all surfaces with a clean dish rag and warm water before and after cooking will keep food borne illnesses away. 

Just like in school, children need to have rules in the kitchen for both their safety and cleanliness. Regardless of how simple these may seem, discuss them with your budding chefs.

When mine were younger, they had rules specific to their age to follow while in the kitchen. Our number one rule, wash your hands before cooking! Clean hands and work surfaces are important. Do you really want to eat that taco after playing with the dog?

Keep electrical appliances away from water to avoid shock. Stay away from electrical appliances and sockets, especially if your hands are wet.

A basic rule I see many television chefs ignore; always turn pot handles toward the back of the range top. No one wants to make a trip to the ER because they bumped into it and knocked the pot over.

To avoid fire, keep paper towels, dish towels, and pot holders away from the range top so they don’t catch fire. Teach your kids, if there is a fire, never put water on a cooking fire. It could make the fire bigger. Instead, ask an adult, maybe a neighbor if home alone, to help put the fire out with baking soda or flour.

When doing the dishes, don’t put anything sharp, such as a knife, in the sink. Instead, sit it on the counter beside the sink. If placed in the sink water, someone could reach in and get cut.

Never lick your fingers or put your hands in your mouth while cooking. This is especially important with raw foods, such as cookie dough and cake batters that contain eggs.

If it comes out of the refrigerator or freezer, it goes back to the same place after using. Don’t leave it on the counter until you are finished cooking.

While all these rules are important, kids of all ages can be in the kitchen. No bake recipes are great for those just learning to cook. These include smoothies, toad tacos, peanut butter and banana dogs, or lemonade.

Cooking not only builds self-confidence, it also reinforces reading skills, and introduces abbreviations and measurements, including fractions. Teach your child to read the recipe through completely and retrieve ingredients and measuring devises before cooking.

Also teach them to clean up after cooking. This is just as important as cooking. Don’t worry that it may not be to your standards. It’s the process they are learning.

For a free chart of age appropriate cooking skills, contact the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, Miller County Extension office in the courthouse, e-mail me at or call 870-779-3609. You can also get great tips on facebook at UAEXMillerCountyFCS/CarlaHaleyHadley, twitter at @MillerCountyFCS and Instagram millercountyfcs_carlahadley.

Toad Tacos require no cooking and are moderately difficult, due to the carrot curl. Supervise your kids using the vegetable peeler and then they should be good to make these all summer long.

Toad Tacos

1 Taco Shell

2 olive slices

1/4 cup sour cream

1/4 cup refried beans

1/4 cup shredded cheese

1/4 cup shredded lettuce

1 carrot curl

1 raisin

Place taco shell on plate. While taco shell is lying on plate, layer in this order: refried beans, cheese, then lettuce. Place two small dollops of sour cream on the top edge of the taco shell and the two olive slices on the sour cream to make the eyes. Place the carrot curl in the taco opening with a raisin on the end to form the toad’s tongue. Serve with a piece of fruit and milk for a complete my plate meal.

By Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Carla Haley-Hadley
County Extension Agent - FCS
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
400 Laurel Street, Suite 215 Texarkana AR 71854
(870) 779-3609


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