Expert Q&A

Q. I would love to teach my young grandchildren how to cook. What are the best ways to make my lessons safe and fun?

A. Teaching kids to cook is a true joy and a great opportunity to teach them other things too -- everything from math to following directions and teamwork. Here’s how to guarantee that the experience will be successful -- and safe.

Let them play with the food Give your little chefs easy, doable tasks, then let them go a little crazy. Kids love squishing cloves through a garlic press, using a potato masher or mixing cake batter. If you see them overdoing it, resist the urge to take the bowl out of their hands. Remember: Your top priority is fun, not perfect food.

Don’t stress over a mess Measuring ingredients is a learning experience.  Cover your counter with a sheet of waxed paper to catch the inevitable spills, and don’t scold. Laughing over mishaps will let kids know you appreciate their efforts.

Set a safe example Children imitate adults, so always follow safety rules, such as turning pot handles towards the back of the stove. Rather than lecture, explain precautions as you take them (“I’m making sure I turn off the burner”). Starting at around age 7, children can learn to operate the microwave, use knives (start with the plastic kind first) and perform other simple cooking tasks -- but only with active adult supervision.

Serve it their way Let kids add their own special touches by cutting sandwiches into wacky shapes, using a syrup-filled squeeze bottle to draw designs on pancakes, or turning their mashed potatoes bright green with food colouring.

Swallow with a smile Keep kids hot for cooking by eating -- and praising -- their efforts, even if their pie crust is tough or the potatoes are oversalted. That way, you’ll keep them coming back for more cooking lessons with you.

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