photo: Tim Pierce via Flickr

With flames, sharp knives, and plenty of breakable items, the kitchen has the potential for a lot of danger when it comes to kids. However, giving them a little freedom can help them learn how to be safer, develop skills they’ll need as an adult, and even boost self-confidence – not to mention make your life easier. Check out these simple tips on things you should let your kids handle in the kitchen.

Make their own simple dish.
Spreading peanut butter and jelly on a slice of bread or pouring out a bowl of cereal with milk are simple enough tasks that most kids can handle by five years old. Give your kids the opportunity to play chef with simple dishes and, as they grow, they’ll be more confident about preparing their own meals.

Cut with a knife (and guard).
Knives don’t have to be a scary kitchen item if you teach your kids how to use them safely. Giving your kids the chance to wield an item that is usually off-limits will give them a sense of empowerment and self-confidence. Start by practicing with a dull knife on soft foods, then work your way up to a regular sharp knife. To be completely safe, have your kids use a knife guard.

Grab their own (healthy) snacks.
How often do you hear the words, “I want a snack,” on a daily basis? The answer is most likely, too often. Instead of feeling like an un-tipped waiter, give your kids the freedom to dish up their own snacks. Set up a low drawer, or cabinet that’s easily and safely accessible with an assortment of healthy snacks. The next time you hear the familiar refrain, just point your kiddo in the right direction. Not only will you get a little break, but it will help your kids develop a sense of self-reliance.

Load and unload the dishwasher.
Getting a helping hand with the never-ending pile of dirty dishes is totally worth risking a broken cup or two. Learning basic household skills is important to developing self-reliance as an adult, and experts say the younger you start giving kids responsibilities at home, the easier it is to get them to continue doing so later.

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Put groceries away.
Things might not end up in the exact spots you would have put them, but pushing aside the control freak side of yourself to let your kids help put the groceries away is a great way to give even younger kids responsibilities.

Cook with you at the stove.
Much like using a knife, the stove is often an off-limits spot to kids in the kitchen, and for good reason. But spending supervised time together cooking at the stove can have a lot of benefits. Kids will gain confidence, develop an appreciation of how much work goes into making meals, and learn how to cook. It can even be a great way to entice picky eaters into trying new foods if they’ve helped prepare it.

What tasks do you allow your kids to do in the kitchen? Share your ideas in the comments.