Kitchen Kids

If you're tired of cooking, here's an idea: teach your children to do it. Sisters Isabella and Olivia Gerasole, 11 and 9, authors of "The Spatulatta Cookbook" (Scholastic. $16.99), give some tips on how parents can encourage their kids in the kitchen.

Keep it simple. Avoid complicated recipes and exotic ingredients. "No respectable child would touch broccoli rabe," says Isabella. The Gerasoles also warn against spicy ingredients like jalapeños, which can sting if children touch them and then their eyes.

Make it age-appropriate. Kids can begin cooking as young as 2 or 3, but at that age it's best to start them with foods that don't require heat. The Gerasoles suggest dipping strawberries in sour cream and rolling them in cinnamon and brown sugar. Fruit salads and sandwiches are also good for beginners.

Focus on health. Shop together for fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs. Better yet, if you have a garden, or even just a sunlit window, grow them. "I wish kids would realize that there are so many healthy things for them that taste really good," says Olivia, who grows her own tomatoes and herbs.

Play it safe. Have kids wash their hands and wear sturdy shoes. Start them out with butter knives and gradually work up to sharper blades. Then sit back and savor the fruits of their labor.

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