1 Choose the location carefully. Find a low-traffic space that has a washable floor, high cabinets (for storing appliances and basic food supplies), and a sink for hand washing and cleanup. It's also great to have a stove and a refrigerator close by. Make sure there's enough room to create places for preparation (cutting, measuring, mixing), cooking, eating, and cleaning up (water source, drying rack).
2 Organize your time. Arrange cooking activities so children have immediate hands-on experiences and do not have to wait for their turns.
3 Remember: safety first. When cooking with heat, provide pot holders, turn pot handles inward, tape down cords, and caution young chefs not to touch hot appliances or food. Use unbreakable, rustproof equipment.
4 Always supervise. There should always be a low child-to-adult ratio in the cooking area. Supervise the use of plastic serrated knives and help position items to be cut. Do not leave children alone while working with appliances, heat, or sharp materials such as graters.
5 Foster independence. Precut large items and mark measuring cups with tape lines. Use containers with wide openings to facilitate pouring and mixing. Provide child-size chairs and tables for comfort and safety.
6 Start out squeaky clean. Encourage children to wash their hands with soap and water. Cooking smocks should be easily washable and not previously used for messy art activities. Scrub cooking surfaces with a sanitizing cleanser.
7 Organize equipment so children can easily see and reach materials. Arrange similar items together on low shelves; for instance, stack bowls and place silverware in a tray. Label shelves with words and pictures. Make silhouettes of the cooking tools and pots and place them on pegboard, so children can readily match and hang clean cooking items on top of their shapes.
8 Make cleanup easy. Put supplies (sponges, paper towels, pan of soapy water, dish drainer) in easy reach. Have a child-size broom, dustpan, and mop for floor spills. Furnish covered trash pails and encourage recycling (aluminum cans, glass, cardboard, and so on).