We learn from the environment we grow in, parents model behavior that children are constantly emulating. If we cook, children observe the act, but if we engage our kids in the process they gain more than a tasty meal, they start to build life skills. The food we prepare at home is almost always healthier than items we pickup at delis, drive thrus and restaurants. Give your kids a headstart in life by teaching them to cook. It is never too early to start!
Wearing your kiddo (if appropriate, depending on the meal) or placing them in a safe seat with a good view of the kitchen which allows for an up close experience. Something like stir fry offers a variety of colors, textures, smells, flavors and sounds as we quickly throw together a nourishing meal for the family. I really like Nom Nom Paleo’s Garbage Stir Fry , the options are limitless!
Toddlers love to help! I invested in a kid friendly knife for my son and we haven’t looked back. On any given day, I have a helper in the kitchen to chop vegetables and fruit. A fun meal/snack to make with toddlers is a smoothie! Our household favorite is mango, kale and coconut, checkout this recipe at Eating Well . Each morning I pull down the blender and we layer ingredients. I often ask which veggies he would like to add and we come up with some pretty interesting combinations (I redirect if the selection would cause a negative outcome).
4, 5, 6 and Beyond
As kids grow, their contribution and the recipes can become more complex. Special equipment is helpful, like a guard for the box grater, a spiralizer, garlic presser, meat tenderizer, melon baller, apple slice, etc. Curious Chef has a variety of kid-friendly recipes including Cauliflower Fried “Rice”, a very popular dish at our house (we like to add pineapple).
Fun for Everyone
Incorporating kids in the kitchen is fun! Expand their food time beyond meals, host cooking themed parties and playdates. The classic decorate your own cupcake is easy, but I like to travel a slightly healthier path, anybody been to a mozzarella party? Mozzarella is fun! Checkout 30 minutes mozzarella and How To Make Mozzarella with your Kids . This is a very hands on process with a final step similar to taffy. I recommend trying it with some adult friends first to gain a better understanding of the process.
Garden parties are another fun option in the summer, make pesto (my Alaska garden is not basil friendly without a lot of effort on my part, but I often use carrot tops, kale, spinach and broccoli) to top your burgers, add some baked garden fries and fresh apple sauce !
To finish off strong, let me highlight some delish, healthy dessert options that little hands can help with! In the land of ice cream, frozen yogurt, popsicles and the like, I present homemade go-gurts and yogurt buttons! Looking for something warm and aromatic during the cold Alaskan winter months, try baked apples. And my highlights wouldn’t be complete without a cookie recipe, try these 1-pot coconut no bake cookies.
Play with your food! Play with your kids! Play with food and your kids! Cooking with children instills confidence, creativity and a beautiful life skill. Post pictures of your creations on the AWC FaceBook page. If you are looking for more recipes to make with your kids or liven up your current repertoire, checkout my pins on the AWC Pinterest board.
Sherrill Collins, MS, RDN