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Kids in the Kitchen

Your child's probably been asking you this since she was old enough to bang two pot lids together. Now that her fine-motor skills, judgment, and math ability, which she'll need to measure ingredients, are more highly developed, you can trust her to do some cooking all by herself, without your constant supervision (though you should stay nearby). What kids this age can do solo:

Follow a recipe

Start with a basic one that uses five to eight familiar ingredients and requires only simple, hands-on activities like kneading or stirring. Some good cookbooks for tweens include:

  • Kids' Fun & Healthy Cookbook (DK Publishing)
  • You're the Cook! A Guide to Mixing It Up in the Kitchen, by Katie Wilton (Cooking with Katie, Inc.)

Mix it up

Measure and mix ingredients in a bowl (but not on the stovetop).

Grease and flour a baking pan 

In fact, baking is a terrific activity for tweens, since it mostly involves measuring and mixing in bowls, rather than on a stove, and they'll love eating the results.

Small is best

Use small appliances, like a hand mixer, mini-food processor, blender, and microwave-and just about any manual cooking tool, like a whisk and peeler. Use a small, light, easy-to-grip paring knife. She should hold the knife firmly but loosely and use a cutting board placed just above waist level (put a dish towel underneath the board so it won't slide around). Make sure the knife is sharp; dull ones often slip and cause cuts.

Clean up 

Bonus: You can rely on her to do this even when she's not the one cooking!

Before you know it, she'll graduate from cinnamon toast to a pumpkin pie.