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Time to Cook?

Sure, she can read pretty well and measure correctly, but is it okay for your child to cook by herself? Not yet -- you should be nearby if she's going to turn on the oven. Mistakes can happen (like accidentally pointing the knob to "broil" instead of "bake"), and handling hot items and sharp blades requires supervision. By the time she's 13, she'll probably be able to whip up breakfast or those bake-sale items solo, but in the meantime, here's what you can do to hone her culinary skills:

Let her pick the dish herself. Give her some cookbooks or food magazines to comb for ideas. Or have her go to and click on "Recipe Finder," where she can browse by course or cuisine.

Start off small. Chocolate soufflé probably isn't for beginners; steer her toward no-knead breads, brownies, or spaghetti sauce, but let her do the bulk of the work--measuring, mixing, chopping -- herself.

Gather the tools and ingredients. Laying these out for her means she won't need to stop and hunt around for the mixer or spices, which may cause her to lose focus -- forcing you to step in and nudge her along.

Celebrate her creation. Even if the cake is a bit dry or the cookies are underdone, your praise will go a long way toward building her kitchen confidence.