l Adjust your attitude. Meal-making will take longer and be messier. Learning to cook doesn't have to be a seven-night-a-week, four-course extravaganza. Start small and maybe just on the weekends if that's what works with your family's schedule. Think of your sessions as together time; worry about the cleanup later.
l Watch it. The most important ingredient for teaching children to cook is supervision. Be diligent about watching children as they learn to use knives, peelers, graters and all appliances, especially the stove, oven, toaster and microwave.
l Stay healthy. Remind children early and often about the importance of cleanliness and food safety. This is especially important if they are working with raw meat or poultry.
l Cook your age. Find tasks that fit the age of the child. Children ages 3 to 5 are capable of tearing lettuce, washing fruits and vegetables, stirring ingredients and helping to add ingredients. Some 5-year-olds are OK with butter knives, but others may need to wait. At age 8, most children can handle instructions on sharp knives.
l Shop 'til you chop. Let your children help plan the menu a few nights a week and then take them shopping. Explain how you pick produce, what you look for at the meat counter and how to compare prices. You shop every week, so spread out the lessons.
l Be kind. For the most part, children want to please their parents. Praise them even if only half the cup of flour makes it to the bowl.
l Learn together. If your cooking skills are lacking, take a class yourself. You can pass those skills on to your youngsters. Also, consider parent-child cooking classes.
There are many cookbooks on the market aimed at young cooks. They include:
l "Healthy Foods: An Irreverent Guide to Understanding Nutrition and Feeding Your Family Well" by Leanne Ely (Storey Books, 2001, $19.95).
l "The Healthy Body Cookbook: Over 50 Fun Activities and Delicious Recipes for Kids" by Joan D'Amico and Karen Eich Drummond (John Wiley & Sons Inc., 1999, $12.95).
l "Clueless in the Kitchen: A Cookbook for Teens" by Evelyn Raab (Firefly Books, 1998, $12.95).
l "The Starving Students' Cookbook" by Dede Hall (Warner Books, 1994, $9.99) and "The Starving Students' Vegetarian Cookbook" by Dede Hall (Warner Books, 2001, $11.95).
l "The Healthy College Cookbook" by Alexandra Nimetz, Jason Stanley and Emeline Starr (Storey Books, 1999, $14.95).