I think its really good getting your children interesting in cooking and food at an early age so that they acquire the necessary skills they will need to have a healthy diet and to be able to cook for themselves when they do (one day!) leave home. Even just talking to them about what you are cooking and letting them touch, taste, feel and smell the things you are using are all a great learning experience. Children have much better tastebuds than adults and will pick out very delicate flavours in food.
You still need to be careful with little helpers- however much they promise they won't touch the hot pan in front of them they still sometimes will do it just to see if it really is hot. Presume the worst and never leave them near anything they can burn themselves on or hurt themselves with without very strict supervision.
My youngest daughter today asked to make gingerbread men which is a great activity since they not only get to roll out and cut out the men but they also get to decorate them. The following is quite a sturdy dough and so is good for little people to play around with since it doesn't break too easily.
75g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 tbsp black treacle
1 tsp group cinammon
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch ground cloves
Finely grated rind of half and orange
0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
225g plain flour (you may need a little more)
Decorations: currants, writing icing, chocolate drops
Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees C. Put the sugar, syrup, treacle, 1 tablespoon of water, spices and rind together in a large saucepan.
Bring them to boiling point, stirring all the time.
Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the bicarbonate of soda (it will bubble up at this point so make sure it is off the heat completely and stir to break it down).
Now add the fat, cut into lumps.
Mix everything together into a smooth mix.
Next stir in the flour gradually until you have a smooth manageable dough. Add a little more flour, if you think it needs it. Cover the dough – and leave it in a cool place to become firm for about 30 minutes.
Now roll the dough out on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick and cut out the gingerbread men.
Currants can be pressed into the dough for eyes, noses, mouths and buttons down their fronts. Arrange them on the lightly greased baking sheets.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the biscuits feel firm when lightly pressed with a fingertip.
Leave the biscuits to cool. Decorate with writing icing and chocolate drops.
Once my eldest got home from school she also got involved with some decorating (and eating!)
Both girls had great fun and we all enjoyed eating their creations!