“Let your kids use sharp knives and hot stoves"

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“If you find yourself snapping at or correcting him constantly while he is in the kitchen, think about cooking together on a calmer evening.”

Parents try with all their might to keep children from dangerous things, but one mother actively encourages it.

Chef, cookbook author, and mother Aviva Goldfarb encourages kid to use sharp knives and hot stoves—but then again it goes with territory.

Her children were eight when she first let them handle a sharp knife, and in her line of work she has seen children as young as six handling a chef’s knife.

In her Washington Post story, Aviva says that she’s met so many parents that are so terrified that they unintentionally drive children away from the kitchen.

“The most upsetting example of this was when I was teaching a group of teenagers at an after-school program in the District how to prepare a healthy dinner,” she shares.

“One boy was so proud that I was letting him dice raw sweet potatoes with a long sharp knife (which you know is not an easy task if you’ve ever tried it). However, his mom walked in mid-potato and, surprised and scared, screamed at him to stop.

“I had taught him basic knife skills and was standing right there watching him, but her reaction broke his focus and drained the joy from his accomplishment.”

Aviva understands the mother’s concern, she says, but the real cause of fear should be that children won’t be able learn how to cook at all, and will be “consigned to years eating prepared or highly processed foods.”

So she offers these seven ways for parents to control their fear and inspire children to cook.

Let kids cook real food (not just bake cookies)

“We need to encourage them to make other foods they may enjoy eating, such as baked potato chips, sweet potato fries, scrambled eggs, blueberry pancakes, breaded chicken and creamy ranch dressing…we want our kids to learn that it’s easy to make almost any food they like to eat.”

Let kids be in charge

“let the child direct the activity by letting her decide what to make, how to season it (kids love smelling spices) and what to serve it with. Let the child do the actual work, including reading or thinking the entire recipe through first.”

Hot stoves and sharp knives? Bring ’em on

“Yes, we most definitely need to teach our kids basic safety skills around heat and sharp objects, but we also need to stretch beyond our fears and comfort zone and empower and trust them to cook safely and responsibly. It will help them feel a sense of accomplishment and mastery when they are able to make a meal independently from start to finish.”

Let them make a mess

“Don’t suck the joy out of cooking by grimacing or groaning every time your child spills some flour on the floor or splashes some soy sauce on the counter (or even on the dish towel).”

Take a breath

“If you find yourself snapping at or correcting him constantly while he is in the kitchen, think about cooking together on a calmer evening.”

Stop talking

“In cooking with kids (and perhaps parenting in general), the most important lesson I’ve learned is that the less we say, the better off we all are. Sure, if they ask us a question we should answer, but it’s important to keep quiet as often as possible when we feel like directing or correcting, and let them figure stuff out for themselves.”

Get out of the room

“I remember when my daughter texted me a question about using the food processor alone for the first time while I was at my son’s basketball game and I wanted to tell her to wait until I got home—in my head I was screaming “No!” — but I held my tongue. The more we let our kids take risks, take charge and embrace their new kitchen skills, the more likely it is that their inner chef will come out to play.”

Photo credit: Sujata Gupta/NPR

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Also read: 5 ways to give your kids cooking skills: how to teach children how to cook

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Written by

James Martinez

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