By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – One way to make the most of the stay-at-home order and kids home from school is to teach kids to cook… breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Before the outbreak, KDKA’s Kristine Sorensen met with chef and educator Emily Larsen from Providence Connections. Emily has great advice on what your kids can learn and do in the kitchen at what ages, and believe it or not, she says they can start as young as 2! Here’s their edited conversation.

Kristine Sorensen: Emily, you say kids can start helping in the kitchen as young as 2 and 3. Is that right?

Emily: Yes, get those toddlers in there. They’re not going to be able to do much, but they can do simple things like wash the fruits and vegetables. They can also mix things together. Give them a spatula — they’re not going to do a good job, and you’re doing to have to redo it afterwards, but they’ll have a lot of fun doing that.

As they get older, give them some excitement. They can cut soft things with a butter knife — things like bananas and strawberries. Once they cut them, they’re going to want to eat them.

As you move into pre-K and kindergarten-aged kids, they can start combining things. So you hand them the ingredients, and they dump them all into a bowl. They can help you count things. They can also do simple things like helping you open cans.

Kristine Sorensen: How about kids who are 7 to 8 years old… what can they do?

Emily: When they’re 7 to 8 years old, you can let them use a little sharper knife. You want to keep the size of the knife age-appropriate, so a paring knife. They can also do things like crack eggs for you; they can knead dough; they can scoop cookies, and they can put them in the oven.

You can let them use burners at this age, but only with close supervision. You want to be standing by them the whole time.

Kristine Sorensen: Let’s move up to kids ages 9 to 12.

Emily: About 9 to 12, they are going to start getting a lot of independence. You can let them use a larger knife at this age, but you want to teach them about knife safety. The easiest way is the “bearclaw technique” when you tuck your fingertips in your knuckles. (See video for demonstration.) The reason you do that is if you’re cutting with your fingertips out, you could cut your fingertips, but if you “bearclaw”, that knife is never able to get to your fingertips.

Kristine Sorensen: And what about teenagers? What can they do in the kitchen

Emily: Once they’re teenagers, they can really do it by themselves. They can follow a recipe from start to finish. You do want to teach them about safety like what happens if there is a fire. How do you handle that?

Then you want to ask encouraging questions like, ‘Why do you think we put a top on rice and not on pasta?’ and really get them to try to dive deeper.

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Kristine Sorensen