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Cooking With Kids -- Safely!

Salad Spinner

Why kids love it: By pushing down on the pump, they can make it whir and watch it go very fast.

Ages: 3 and up.

Why grown-ups love it: Kids will beg for salad or spinach just so they can use the spinner.

Try this: Skip the lettuce and make your own spin art: Cut out circles of drawing paper that will fit in the bottom of the spinner. Pour a few drops of food coloring (choose several colors) on the paper. Put top on, and pump. The air will spin colors into a cool design.

We like: Zyliss salad spinner, $24.99, at amazon.com.

Cheese Spreader

Why kids love it: The small, short handle fits well in little hands. Cutting and spreading "by myself" strengthens confidence and independence.

Ages: 3 and up.

Why grown-ups love it: The blade is dull enough to be safe, but it's still effective for cutting bananas, avocados, and other soft foods.

Try this: Give your toddler a peeled banana on a cutting board. Show her how to gently press the knife through the fruit to cut off bite-size pieces.

We like: Wine and cheese spreader, $2.49, available at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Plastic Measuring Cup

Why kids love it: "Reading" numbers on the cup is a big accomplishment, and pouring is fun.

Ages: 5 and up.

Why grown-ups love it: A great way to teach math concepts including more than, less than, and fractions.

Try this: Rice or dried beans are good for practice measuring. Can your child call out "Stop!" when you get to 1/4 cup? To 3/4 cup?

We like: Oxo Good Grips Angled Measuring Cup, $5 for a 1-cup size, from cooking.com.

Funnels

Why kids love them: Pouring liquids or solids from one place to another gives them a sense of mastery.

Ages: 3 and up.

Why grown-ups love them: They spark curiosity and experimentation--the foundations of early science learning.

Try this: Set up your child at the kitchen sink with a variety of funnels and some plastic cups and bowls. Add water. Don't be surprised if he's content for an hour.

We like: All colors and sizes; you can buy funnels for 50 cents to $7 at housewares stores.

Soft-Handle Spatula

Why kids love it: The ergonomic design makes batter-gathering easy. He'll feel as if he's really helping.

Ages: 2 and up.

Why grown-ups love it: A nonslip handle makes for a comfortable grip--and there's a hole at the end for hanging.

Try this: Set him up with a tall-sided bowl (less mess!), a spatula, and pancake batter--and let him stir!

We like: Chef'N Kitchzen Small Spatula, $5.99, from chefsresource.com.

Nonstick Baking Mat

Why kids love it: When they press out a shape with a cookie cutter, the dough transfers cleanly to the cookie sheet.

Ages: 2 and up.

Why grown-ups love it: The mat creates a foolproof, nonstick surface to roll out dough.

Try this: Roll out refrigerated cookie dough, and give your child cookie cutters in a variety of shapes. It's a great way to learn circles, stars, and triangles. Alphabet and number cutters can teach the ABCs and counting.

We like: Silpat mat, $14.99, from thegadgetsource.com.

Plastic Nesting Bowls

Why kids love them: They can sort bowls from largest to smallest, nest them, put things in them, turn them over, and hide things under them.

Ages: One and up.

Why grown-ups love them: They're dishwasher-safe and easy to store.

Try this: You and your child can get ingredients ready for homemade tacos: cooked, chopped meat; shredded cheese; shredded lettuce; cubed tomatoes; and sliced olives. Put one ingredient in each bowl and serve with taco shells.

We like: Zak Designs Just Life Colored Bowl Set, $39.95, available at crateandbarrel.com.

Rubber-Handle Pastry Blender

Why kids love it: They can "cut" butter together with dry ingredients and watch it combine to make dough. Kids love pounding away.

Ages: 4 and up.

Why grown-ups love it: The blade isn't sharp, and the soft, rubber handle makes for an easy grip.

Try this: Piecrust recipes usually call for flour and shortening to be combined until dough resembles "little peas," a challenge kids over 4 will enjoy mastering.

We like: Oxo Good Grips Dough Blender, $7, from oxo.com.

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