Learning to bake is a good intermediate activity for kids who can handle fairly complex directions but who don’t yet need to be cooking on the top of the stove. Also, what child--or grandparent--doesn't love a homemade cookie, cupcake or brownie? But before you get started, teach the grands some basic kitchen safety.
Basic Safety Precautions
- Dress properly. Aprons are good because they give an extra layer of protection against burns, as well as protecting clothing from stains. Long, loose sleeves in the kitchen are a hazard. Wear shoes. Bare feet are at risk for dropped objects or hot spilled food.
- Mix it up safely. Electric mixers are one of the most dangerous utensils in a kitchen. Children should not use them until around age 10; even at that age, careful instruction and close supervision is necessary. It’s a good idea to invest in an old-fashioned egg beater and good wire whisks so that kids can learn to do mixing tasks without using an electric mixer.
- Let grown-ups put food in the oven. Safe Kids Worldwide recommends that children not be allowed to put cookies in the oven until age 12 and not be allowed to take them out until age 14. When the children are old enough to use the oven, teach them to use oven mitts rather than dishtowels and to put the oven mitts beside the oven before starting to bake.
- Stay away from glass. Buy plastic or wooden mixing bowls, measuring cups, measuring spoons and other utensils. One caveat: Plastic bowls are not good for whipping egg whites as any speck of grease can keep them from whipping properly.
- Be prepared for emergencies. Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen and be sure you know how to use it. Know first aid for minor burns and cuts.
- Use metal pans. The new silicone pans are unbreakable but because they are not stiff, they can be tricky for young cooks to handle. Glass baking pans are not only breakable but also give inferior results for most baking tasks.
- Emphasize hand cleanliness. Teach the grandchildren to wash their hands thoroughly before starting a baking project. I tell them to lather while they count to twenty. I also show them how to spread their fingers out and wash between their fingers. Hands must be washed again after touching the nose or mouth or after touching a pet or the trash can.
- Teach about food-borne bacteria. One of the good things about teaching baking first is that there is less danger of bacteria and cross-contamination than there is when cooking meats. Eggs, however, can be a source of bacteria. Teach your grandchildren never to taste a mixture containing raw eggs and to wash utensils and their hands after handling raw eggs.
- Cleanliness and safety go together. Clean up floor spills so that no one slips. Clean up spilled food that could attract insects. Clean counters and spray with a disinfecting kitchen cleaner at the end of the project.