I am featuring a Guest Blogger and fellow dietitian, Laura Belsito for this Grow with Nutrition Blog. This is Laura’s second blog in her three part series about kids, nutrition, cooking and health. For this post Laura is sharing her expertise about strategies to involve your kids in the kitchen. Let’s start to develop those healthy relationships with food early on and celebrate February being heart month with the whole family!
Make the Time
It’s true that including the kids in cooking meals requires time, patience, and some extra clean-up, especially when the children are younger. But many experts think it is well worth the effort.
It’s important for busy parents to take time out to teach their kids basic cooking techniques. Involving your kids in the kitchen can be easy. Don’t worry over mistakes, enjoy yourself as you connect with your children and build memories and skills that will last forever.
Three Simple Ways to Peak Their Interest in Cooking
1. Picking the Recipe
Let your child choose a recipe or dish they would like to help prepare. They will be more interested in preparing it if they choose it. Provide them with a few recipes options. If you need inspiration, here are some heart healthy kid friendly recipes to celebrate heart month.
2. Making it Fun
Have your child invite a friend over to help with the cooking and make it more of a play date rather than a chore. Youngsters cooking together in the kitchen, with Mom and Dad sharing family recipes and secrets is a perfect example of how the passion and pleasure of cooking can be passed down from generation to generation.
3. Enjoying the Meal Together
Involve your child in the final assembly of the meal and setting the table. Encourage them to discuss their favourite part in preparing the dish at mealtime. And enjoy the food together as a family.
Cooking skills can help boost children’s self esteem, improve math and social skills, instill healthy habits and reduce picky eating. There are many activities that you can do with your child even at a young age. Give your child options (measuring dry ingredients, stirring, mixing) and then allow them to choose how they would like to be involved in the cooking process. Start with one or two simple activities and allow your child to do more as they gain confidence in their skills. Remember to always supervise if child is trying a new skill. Now, let’s take a look at how to get your kids cooking based on their age!
Cooking activities for 3-5 year olds
- Layer ingredients in a baking dish (i.e. can do this for lasagna, nachos, casseroles)
- Measure ingredients with measuring spoons
- Mix ingredients in a bowl with a large wooden spoon
- Sieve sugar or flour into a bowl
- Use a butter knife or plastic knife to spread dips or sauces
- Wash fruits and vegetables in the sink
- Rip apart lettuce leaves for a salad
Cooking activities for 5-7 year olds
- Crack eggs into a bowl
- Cut soft ingredients with small knives (i.e. cut avocado into small pieces)
- Form foods with hands (i.e. roll cookies into balls, form biscuits, etc.)
- Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients
- Read recipes aloud to another cooker
- Use a hand held beater to mix ingredients (supervise just in case)
- Use a dough roller to smooth dough
Cooking activities for 8-11 year olds
- Open cans with a can opener
- Peel fruits/vegetables with a peeler
- Plan family meals and lunches
- Pound meat or poultry
- Stir ingredients in pots on the stove (supervision required)
- Use sharper knives to cut vegetables
- Use a thermometer to measure internal temperatures of meat
Teaching your children how to cook will provide them with valuable skills that can be used lifelong. Do you enjoy cooking with your kids? Let us know your favourite ways to include them in the kitchen!
- A Guide to Cookery Skills by Age. Retrieved from:bbcgoodfood.com
- Cooking Matters…Developing Food skills. Retrieved from: nutritiontoolsforschools.ca
This blog was written (with a few edits from Jane) for Grow with Nutrition by Laura Belsito who is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for pediatric nutrition. She completed a Bachelors Degree and a Master’s Degree in Applied Human Nutrition at the University of Guelph. Laura counsels clients via two family health teams with a focus on pediatric nutrition. Laura loves working with children to help them grow to their full potential. Their smiles and positive attitudes motivate Laura to empower both children and their parents with healthy eating strategies.