Kids of all ages love to help in the kitchen. But how do you know what your child is ready for in terms of culinary craftiness?

Sarah Amick of Pendleton has two sons. Lucas is 9 and Logan is 5. They both enjoy lending a hand in the kitchen. She said her older son is in the kitchen with or without her between three and five times a week. He enjoys making desserts and side dishes, but is also known to work on main courses as well. She said he is fairly adept with all aspects of meal preparation.

“He’s pretty comfortable using just about everything in the kitchen, but I do help put things in and take things out of the oven,” she said. “Of course, he is only allowed to use sharp knives and the stove with supervision.”

Jack Bunn has been a professional chef for 17 years, though he just left the career so he could spend more time with his growing family. A father of two, plus one on the way, Bunn encourages his children to take an active role in the kitchen.

He said allowing children to watch adults in the kitchen and holding their hands while they learn to mix and perform other tasks is a great way to educate them on kitchen technique and safety.

“My son spent his first years in one arm while I worked countless hours at my restaurant. Moving later to sitting on the counter watching and graduating to helping make breakfast foods like toast and scrambled eggs then on to salad prep,” Bunn said of his now 9-year-old.

As for her younger son, Amick said Logan likes to pour and mix ingredients. She said within the next year she plans to start helping him use a butter knife to cut foods and increase his kitchen responsibilities.

How young is too young?

Children even younger than Logan can help in the kitchen, too.

According to the website, even toddlers can be helpful in the kitchen. They can squeeze lemons, tear up lettuce or herbs, use a rolling pin, or other simple tasks.

Bunn said his 3-year-old daughter helps mix ingredients together and sits on the counter to observe the process of cooking. She also helps him taste test.

“The tasting of spices before adding teaches a respect for the ingredients and develops their pallet. This whole experience also builds trust between you and your children,” he said.

For the next age set, it is recommended that kids learn to crack eggs, use measuring cups and spoons, and mix ingredients. As children get older, they can grate cheeses, use knives, and peel produce. Older children can prepare whole meals with adult supervision.

Amick said she encourages her sons to help prepare meals because it gives them a sense of accomplishment and builds confidence.

“He loves knowing that he can take care of himself when it comes to making a meal,” she said of Lucas.

Safety is key

Teaching kitchen safety is also important for all ages of children. Amick said her children have a healthy respect for kitchen tools, the stove, and the oven. She has taught her children to be cautious with knives and heat.

Bunn agrees with teaching safe practices. Safety and patience are key, he noted. He also said everyone in the kitchen needs to respect the elements that could present danger to everyone, things like hot and cold, sharp and dull.

“The kitchen is dangerous, but a core of family life,” he said.

There is an old saying that the heart of a home is in the kitchen, and passing family traditions and safe practices on to the next generation is a wonderful way to keep that heart beating for years to come.

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