If your children are eager to help prepare meals, their childhood is an ideal time to teach cooking skills and pass on family recipes. Encourage your child's interest in cooking by setting aside a kitchen shelf or drawer for his cooking supplies. Find him an apron and oven mitts that fit, a recipe box, and a cookbook that illustrates cooking techniques. Don't buy a cookbook he'll grow into. Instead, find one that's a bit below his current reading level. He'll feel more capable in the kitchen if he can easily follow the recipes and stir at the same time.
What's most important is that children learn to enjoy preparing and cooking foods. Praise their efforts, even the simplest. Before you can relax while your kids whip up dinner, you will have to spend time teaching them. Establish and enforce the rule: Leave the kitchen the way you found it. And make sure they know safe kitchen habits.
How to keep kids safe in the kitchen
Don't assume that children know about safety in the kitchen. Before you let your kids loose among the appliances sit down together and review these basic safety rules.
1. Before any cooking adventure, ask an adult to be on hand. Always ask for help when you need it.
2. Begin by washing your hands. If you have long hair, tie it back. If you have sleeves that could drape onto a hot burner, secure them with elastic bands.
3. Make sure that oven mitts are within reach. Pots and microwave containers may not look hot even when the are,
4. Chop and peel safely. Direct the sharp edge of the knife or peeler away from your hand. Always cut downward, never up toward yourself.
5. To avoid the possibility of contracting salmonella poisoning, set aside the cutting board, plate, knife, and any other utensils you may have used to prepare meat and poultry. Don't use them to prepare other foods until they have been washed. Note to parents: to eliminate salmonella, wash in hot, soapy water, then scrub with a mixture of 15 mL (1 tbsp.) chlorine bleach to 1 L (4 cups) water, leaving the solution on for at least 45 seconds before rinsing.
6. Resist licking the spoons or the bowls. The raw eggs in cake and cookie batter could cause diarrhea (food poisoning), as could any half-cooked hamburger or chicken dishes.
7. Never lay your recipe or cookbook on the stove; don't pile up ingredients there, either.
8. Turn pot handles toward the back of the stove in order to avoid knocking over pots of scalding food.
9. If fire breaks out in the microwave, leave the door closed and unplug it. If a fire breaks out on the stove, use a fire extinguisher. Don't use water to put out an oil fire -- use baking soda. If you can't put out the fire quickly, phone 911 or your local fire department.
10. Ask for help or instructions on how to use the blender or the food processor, or other kitchen equipment. The rule for microwave use is: If you're too young to read or follow the directions, then you're too young to use a microwave without an adult.
Page 1 of 2 -- Tired of quiet dinners with the family? Try out our fun conversation openers to get your family chatting on page 2
Family dinner conversation
Make the focus of the family meal conversation rather than the act of refuelling the body. Children need to know that at dinner the family matters most. By spending uninterrupted relaxed time with your kids, you convey that you're emotionally available to them which, in turn, encourages your child to open up to you.
Except during the Stanley Cup or the Olympics, perhaps, you'll be wasting precious family time if you eat in front of the TV. So turn the TV off and take the phone off the hook. Some kids get so wrapped up in a show that they don't even know if they've eaten. And your child will miss his body's cues of hunger or satiation if he's mesmerized by a TV show.
Children learn manners by imitating their parents. So remember: no elbows on the table; no dunking your cookie in your coffee; bring your food up to your mouth, not your mouth down to your plate; compliment the cook. The kids are watching and listening.
Make dinners special. Celebrate the first snowfall or the last day of school. Ask a family member to contribute a centrepiece or make a special dessert. Eat together at the dining-room table occasionally. Light candles or dim the lights, and the conversation will soften, too.
9 ways to start a family dinner conversation:
Jan Kindred of White City, Saskatchewan, craved meaningful conversation around the dinner table with her husband and their nine-year-old twin daughters. Kindred developed questions to draw families into more meaningful dialogue. For dinner conversation tonight, try one of Kindred's openers.
1. If you were given $10,000 tomorrow, how would you spend it?
2. If you could travel in a time machine, would you go into the past or into the future?
3. If you could be invisible for one day, what would you do?
4. If you could run away with the circus, what performer would you like to be?
5. Tell one fond memory that you have of each family member.
6. If you met someone who knew nothing about you, what interesting things could you tell them about yourself?
7. Name some things that make you happy that do not cost money.
8. How long do you think a couple should be engaged before they marry?
9. Do you believe in miracles?
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