You’ve heard it before – get your kids in the kitchen. But it doesn’t always sound as appealing when you think about the extra time and mess that it may create for you. So, here are tips for how to actually include your little ones in the kitchen in a productive way that both you and they will enjoy.
Research shows that when children participate in preparing food they are more likely to try it (ahem: vegetables). This should be done regularly and consistently because cooking with your kids once will not always spark enough curiosity to change behavior.
Engage your kids by appealing to their interests. Cooking is a way to teach and practice math, science, reading and art. If your child is excited about reading, have him practice reading the ingredients. If your child loves math, quiz her about addition and fractions using the measuring cups.
Get your children their own gear to empower them. A child-safe knife and a child’s size apron can go a long way. This can make for a great holiday gift!
Set a schedule to create consistency. The more the better, but whether it is weekly or monthly, set dates that your child can cook with you, grandma or even the babysitter. You can also set a day for your child to pick a new recipe of the week for the family, or to help make the upcoming week’s grocery list.
Focus more on the food prep than the final product. Emphasize the fun in purchasing and making the food rather than tasting the food. Allow your children to help prepare the recipe without any stress that they will be pressured to eat it. You don’t want them to feel that there is a motive for the activity.
Choose kid-friendly recipes to make cooking easier for you and the kids. Choose simple recipes with few ingredients and under 6 steps. There are plenty of kids’ cookbooks and great sites for finding kid-friendly recipes, like CHOPCHOP.
Give your little ones simple, reduced-mess tasks throughout the cooking process, such as:
- Tear lettuce and spinach with fingers
- Smash soft foods in ziplock bags – place fruits like bananas and avocados (pancakes, guacamole recipe) in a sealed bag and allow kids to mash it up with their hands and fists.
- Ingredient runner
- Citrus roller – before slicing a lemon or lime to juice it, have children roll the fruit on the counter using their palms to soften the rind and better release the juice.
- Pour liquids
- Stir batter
- Pick herbs off stems
- Wash produce
- Grease the baking pan
Nicole Silber, RD, CSP, CDN is a recognized expert in family nutrition. As both a Registered Dietitian and board certified specialist in pediatric nutrition, she has worked with hundreds of children and parents with varying needs. She is the Director of Pediatrics at Middleberg Nutrition in New York City where she offers individual consultations, kid’s cooking classes, and often speaks to various parent audiences around the city. For kid friendly nutrition tips follow Nicole on instagram, twitter and pinterest.
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