By Jen Hillan
Having your children in the kitchen is an excellent way to teach them about healthy eating and good nutrition, not to mention help them develop a lifelong love of cooking! While cooking they will learn skills in science, math, art and reading in addition to kitchen safety and preparation skills.
Children who help prepare recipes tend to be more likely to eat them. Do you have a picky eater at home? Then you will definitely want to get him involved in the kitchen! Let him pick out a new fruit or vegetable at the grocery store or produce stand, find an easy recipe to prepare together and have him serve it proudly to his family. Chances are, he’ll be more likely to try it since he helped make it!
The activities your children can do in the kitchen will depend on their age and abilities. Always keep safety in mind and use your parental judgment to choose tasks that are appropriate for each child. Children as young as toddlers can manage simple tasks and will probably be excited to help out in the kitchen. Take advantage of their interest and use the opportunity to start teaching!
Let’s focus on tasks that 4- and 5-year-olds should be able to do in the kitchen. If your child is older or younger, use your judgment to find suitable activities based on her age and abilities. ]
Your 4- or 5-year old is at the perfect age to begin forming a love of cooking and nutrition. Here are some great ways to get them involved.
Spreading – Teach her how to make her own PB&J or spread frosting on cupcakes
Peeling – He can use his fingers to peel fruits or hard boiled eggs
Mashing – Give her a fork to mash soft foods or try a ricer for a different texture
Juicing – He can squeeze fruit by hand first and work up to using a hand juicer
Rolling – Let her try cookie dough, meatballs or cheese balls
Pouring – Put a baking pan under the cups to catch any spills
Tossing and tearing – Let him make the salad
Adding ingredients – Teach her to make a simple trail mix with dried fruits and nuts
Measuring – Teach him how to use the side of a knife to level dry ingredients as well as how to use a clear cup to measure wet ingredients
Mixing and stirring – Let her use her hands (for room-temperature ingredients) or a spoon
Cutting – Start with a plastic knife and soft foods such as hard-boiled eggs, fruit and cheese
No matter how you slice it, getting your kids in the kitchen will help them (and maybe even you) in many ways! You can find some easy recipes online, or look for some kid-friendly cookbooks at your local library or bookstore.