Sometimes, kids should play with their food.

Grownups focus frequently (and obsessively) on the pickiness of kids, but the truth is they enjoy food. And kids are less likely to be picky if they cook something themselves.


Dietitian Sue Mah says that teaching kids to cook is also a key to teaching them healthy eating habits. Most youngsters make snacks and meals regularly for themselves. But few can resist the allure of packaged, processed foods. They are so full of fast, fatty food that there’s no room in their stomachs for the nourishment they need.


So here are some guidelines to keeping kids happy and safe in the kitchen:


• Keep activities age-appropriate. For example, three- and four-year-olds can add pre-measured ingredients, stir dishes (not hot ones), tear lettuce for salad or arrange fruit trays; six- to nine-year-olds can measure, mix, use a microwave or toaster, or cut with supervision; 10- to 12-year-olds can prepare salads, easy mains and snacks.


• Expect mistakes.

• Put a damp towel under a cutting board to keep it in place.

• Keep electrical appliances and cords away from water.

• Keep pot handles facing the back of the stove. Don’t overfill pots or leave them unattended.

• Pull back long hair with elastics and bands. Avoid long sleeves and loose clothing.