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My five year-old daughter has a strong interest in learning to cook. I frequently let her participate in ways like measuring and stirring. She also wants to learn things like cooking eggs, as evidenced by her sneaking eggs into her room last night to practice, but she is afraid of the stove. It's not an hysterical fear, just an overabundance of caution.

Are there any tricks or techniques to make overcoming that fear easier?

  • Do you have any sort of stool, or something like a Kitchen Helper? How does she reach the stove, in general? – Joe Jun 16 '15 at 16:56
  • She uses a two-step stepstool. She's quite steady on it and uses it for many different purposes. – Karl Bielefeldt Jun 16 '15 at 17:01
  • How high is the stepstool? (I ask because I have two: one that is two step and in total 4-5" high, the other the second step is probably 18 inches above ground). – Joe Jun 16 '15 at 17:03
  • More like the 18 inch one. – Karl Bielefeldt Jun 16 '15 at 17:05
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    @Joe I am always disappointed to learn about cooling time when my fiancee bakes brownies and cookies. – KRyan Jun 16 '15 at 19:08
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Anything new has the potential for being frightening to a child. Add to that the very real threat of getting burned...it's not surprising that she's being cautious.

My son was reluctant to do things like help stir food because of the heat that rises up from the burner. I let him use an oven mitten and soon he was stirring like a champ. Knowing that he didn't have to worry about brushing up against the burner or touching the hot part of the pan gave him self confidence, and eventually familiarity (which is really what is needed) and now he doesn't need to use the "safety glove" all that often.

  • I can speak with experience that this helps me a little. I have an extreme fear of stoves (I've seen some hair-raising stuff, and my mother threw a fish from the frying pan right into my face when I was 5). But having something protective, even if it is psychological, helps me to get near the stove. – Ismael Miguel Jun 17 '15 at 1:08
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My children (almost 4 and 2) are a bit scared of the stove as well, and we've been working on this slowly.

Currently, the main things they do involving the stove are two things:

  • Adding chocolate chips to pancakes after I've placed them on the griddle
  • Stirring macaroni in boiling water in process of making mac+cheese.

Both are things that they really enjoy, so the desire to do it overcomes their fears most of the time - even to the point that the older one briefly touched the griddle and managed to be okay coming back to put more chips on after we cooled his hand down. The idea here is simply that we're getting them comfortable with being around the stove, building confidence and tolerance, sort of like teaching swimming by starting with just being in the water not doing anything for a while.

With the stirring, he uses a really long handled spoon/spatula, which allows him to be quite far away from the pot and very safe in terms of not getting splashed. Being on a stable and tall stool are also key; being able to look down at the pot is important as it gives him a good sense of control (and is safer to boot).

A lot of what we do still of course is non-stovetop work; mixing pancake batter by hand or in the stand mixer, mixing smoothies in the blender, adding liquids to things. I like doing these kinds of activities, in part because I hope they will encourage them to be interested in cooking and in being involved - and then lead to wanting to do more on the stove. Of course, it sounds like you're already mostly there.


Finally, you might consider getting a hot plate or an electric griddle for her to practice with. That gives the great advantage of being able to be placed at her height, as well as being much smaller in size. The griddle in particular is nice because it means you don't have a pan to manage - the griddle is the pan. Thus no risk of knocking it off. It can be set to a fairly low temperature (which makes eggs easier, anyway!) and since most are non-stick you can avoid the risk of oil splattering (you may want to use a bit of oil, but much, much less, though of course you can use a non-stick pan for the same purpose).

Something like a small Presto-type would work, for example; usually available in the $20-$25 range and nicely small for a child. They also usually have a temperature control rather than just 'medium', which makes it a lot easier to cook consistently in my experience.

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    That's a good idea about placing it lower. I use a portable induction cooktop that could easily be moved down. – Karl Bielefeldt Jun 16 '15 at 18:34
  • Induction is also nice since it doesn't itself get hot (though the pan certainly does) - so less dangerous if things tip over. – Joe Jun 16 '15 at 19:40
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Take little steps, the stove can become pretty hot, have her watch you a few times then let her try with your guidance

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    Hi and welcome to Parenting.SE! To become more familiar with our site, please take the tour and have a look at the help center, especially How do I write a good answer. Can you expand your answer a bit, since it's currently a bit too short. There is no real explanation why it should work and whether you have experience with this approach, or how to implement it. – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Dec 27 '18 at 13:19
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    Hi. and welcome to our site! The parent/OP may well have tried that. Can you please add more detail on how this can be made into a successful exercise? Thanks! – anongoodnurse Dec 27 '18 at 17:17

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