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Teach Children Rules of the Kitchen

Kids and cooking go hand in hand. It's not only fun but it helps children develop self-esteem and can even turn those picky eaters into new adventurers. What better time to let them explore the kitchen than now, while many parents are still working from home.


Kids and cooking go hand in hand; it’s like creating their own edible craft project. It’s not only fun but helps children develop self-esteem and can turn those picky eaters into new adventurers. What better time to let them explore in the kitchen than now while many parents are still working from home.decorative

One of the most important kitchen basics a child can learn in the kitchen is that good food starts with safety and sanitary habits.

They should be taught first the importance of washing hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before beginning to cook and keep work areas clean by washing down all surfaces with a clean dish rag and warm water before and after cooking. Plus teach them to stop and clean as they go along, cleaning cooking surfaces and putting ingredients away once they’ve been used.

Besides safety and sanitary habits, children need to have rules in the kitchen. They like to have boundaries and with rules for the kitchen, they will know what is expected of them.

Here are some rules my children follow while in the kitchen.

  1. Wash your hands before cooking! This is the most important rule in our kitchen. Clean hands and work surfaces are what can stand between you and a potential food borne illness (food poisoning) outbreak.
  2. Don’t put cooked food on an unwashed plate or cutting board that held raw food. Always use a clean plate.
  3. Keep electrical appliances away from water to avoid shock. Stay away from electrical appliances and sockets, especially if your hands are wet.
  4. Always turn pot handles in toward the back of the range top. This way no one can bump into them and know the pot over.
  5. Keep paper towels, dish towels, and potholders away from the range top so they don’t catch fire.
  6. Don’t put anything sharp into a sink full of water. Someone could reach in and get hurt.
  7. Use an enclosed food chopper instead of a sharp knife for cutting. Leave the cutting to an adult. If you must cut something, use a butter knife.
  8. Never put water on a cooking fire. It could make the fire bigger. Ask an adult to help put the fire out with baking soda or flour.
  9. 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.
  10. Always return unused portions of perishable foods, like dairy products and meats, to the refrigerator right after using them. Don’t let them sit out on the counter until you are finished cooking.

Any age child can work in the kitchen with an adult present and a little modification of recipes.

For those children who are just learning to cook and are not yet confident in the kitchen, choose recipes that are no-bake. These would include such recipes as smoothies, pudding cups, peanut butter and banana dogs, or lemonade. There are plenty of recipes that do not call for knives, stovetops or ovens.

As your child begins to develop confidence in the kitchen, add only one new lesson at a time. It can be overwhelming for a child to try to learn to use a vegetable peeler and wire whisk the same day.

Once your child has mastered that lesson and his/her reading is proficient, give them control over the recipe. I don’t mean turn them loose in the kitchen. But let them create the recipe on their own with your supervision.

Cooking will reinforce reading skills and introduce abbreviations and measurements, including fractions. Allow them to read the recipe through completely and retrieve the items needed before beginning the project. This includes ingredients and measuring devices. Just ask that they show you before they add it to the recipe.

Once the child has mastered reading and following the recipe card and can make the recipe on his own with just your supervision, incorporate some math skills into the cooking process. Have her practice doubling the recipe and halving the recipe. This is not only good kitchen practice, but it will help sharpen math skills for school.

Above all, be sure that you allow your child to clean up after the cooking process. Teach them that cleaning up is just as important as cooking. It may not be to your standards, but you can always finish the job like you like it later.

If you would like more information about cooking with children, including a chart of cooking skills by age, contact me at 870-779-3609. We're online at, on Facebook and Twitter @MillerCountyFCS or on the web at

This recipe is in the easy category. It only has 3 ingredients, requires only a plastic knife, plus is healthy! My daughter made these quite often when she was younger.

Peanut Butter and Banana Dog

  • 1 medium banana, the straighter the better
  • 1 hot dog bun
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter
  1. Open hot dog bun; spread 2 tablespoons peanut butter on inside of bun.
  2. Slice banana lengthwise and place on bun.
  3. Close the bun and enjoy!

Serve with a glass of milk and carrot sticks and you have a complete meal from MyPlate.



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

Media Contact: Carla Due
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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