3 Steps to Teaching Your Children about Food Safety

Many of us use cooking or baking to spend valuable quality time with our kids. After all, time in the kitchen as a family is precious and builds lifelong memories. However, young children and even teenagers may not know about food safety the way they should. 

Use cooking together as a teachable moment to instruct your youngsters on how to prepare food safely for consumption. Not sure where to start? Here are the top 3 things you should teach to help your children learn an essential lesson about keeping cooking fun rather than dangerous.

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1. Discuss the Dangers of Mishandling Food

One of the first things you should consider when teaching your kids about proper food handling is to discuss some dangers of mishandling certain ingredients. For example, talk to your children about food poisoning and some of its side effects. Explaining the risks of food mishandling will help your children understand why it's so important to be careful with certain ingredients, such as:

  • Meats

  • Eggs

  • Dairy

  • Seafood

Let them know why cleaning surfaces, hands, and cooking equipment, such as pots and utensils, is important. It's not just about cleaning up at the end but keeping things sanitary. 

Tell them what they should check before preparing ingredients to ensure they are safe to eat. If foods smell, taste, or look spoiled, tell kids why they shouldn't use them within a recipe. 

Let them know that eating certain raw foods can make them ill. For instance, many children are tempted to consume raw cookie dough or brownie batter, but those items aren't safe for consumption. Don't assume that what seems obvious to you is already common knowledge for your child. 

2. Demonstrate Proper Techniques

After explaining the dangers of mishandling ingredients, show them the correct way to do things to avoid illness. For instance, you could show them the proper way to wash off produce and demonstrate the right way to test food for safety. Some other things you could show your youngsters how to do are:

  • Cleaning cooking utensils and tools

  • Checking meat temperature

  • Cutting ingredients

  • Packaging food for storage

  • Disposing of ingredients

  • Washing surfaces and hands before and after cooking

After you model safety practices and procedures, allow your kids to do them in front of you. If they miss a step or make a mistake, be gentle with them and correct them. 

Keep allowing them to practice each time you cook together to ensure they understand the correct techniques. It may take them several tries to get it right, but these lessons will stick with them well into adulthood, keeping them safe and healthy.

3. Stress Cleanliness

Always try to emphasize cleanliness to your little ones. Children don't always understand the importance of cleaning, so reminders will help. 

Once again, describe to them the dangers of germs and how they can affect their health. Direct them on how to thoroughly wash their hands, surfaces, and cooking equipment before, during, and after cooking. It would be best if you also showed them the cleansers they should use for the kitchen surfaces. 

Only let your kids use cleaning agents if they are old enough to handle them. It would be helpful if the cleaning products were non-toxic to avoid complications. If the children aren't old enough to handle such products, demonstrate to them how you use them when cleaning.

Enjoy Cooking with Your Child Safely

Making memories in the kitchen with your little ones can be a fun and rewarding experience. You create strong bonds and spend quality time with them. Use this time also to teach and demonstrate food safety. You'll be giving them skills they can use throughout their lives and protecting them from harmful bacteria.

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