This week’s blog is a request from a Forever Fit member! If you do not have kids, please share this with friends or family who do!
We are going to be talking about strategies for cooking with kids.
I personally believe it is important to include kids in the preparation of food as it is a great time to educate them about food, where it comes from, how it is prepared and why. It’s also a time to discuss why certain foods are good for our bodies and why others may not be when consumed in excess. It allows them see and feel the food in its natural form and gives them a vested interest in nutrition. I have learned from experience that when kids get to be hands-on in this process, they are much more likely to be open to trying new foods and eating things that they otherwise would not.
I also find this to be a great bonding time with my daughters. It is a fantastic time to work on life skills like following directions, math and learning basic science topics.
I must admit that it took me a bit of time to relax into the concept of cooking with my kids. I am a very goal driven person, and I can become so focused on accomplishing things that I sometimes neglect to enjoy the process. Things like cooking and cleaning and exercise are things that I historically enjoy doing alone and are cathartic for me. Throw a couple of kids into the mix and what once was my therapy is now chaos! The best advice I would give to anyone who might have similar tendencies would be to take a step back and think of this as play time with your kids. Play time that will yield huge benefit both for you and your children.
So, what are some of the ways that I involve them? Let’s dive in!
1. Recipe planning. When I am planning the meals for the week, I will give my 5-year-old daughter the assignment of picking some of the veggie sides we will have. I will control the situation by being very specific. For example, I might pull up Pinterest and ask her to find a broccoli recipe. I have learned not to ask what she wants to eat with her dinner, you can imagine the answer to that is most definitely not going to be broccoli...but given this guidance, she has so much fun looking at all the pictures of broccoli dishes and picking one out. Even though it may not be her favorite food, being in charge of how it is prepared gives her a sense of control and she looks forward to it.
2. Let them help with food prep (age appropriate of course!). Once we have made our plan and have gone to the grocery store (going to the grocery store with a 5 and a 1-year-old could be a blog post in and of itself!), I like to let them help me with washing and prepping the vegetables. This lets them get hands on with the veggies. We often make an assembly line out of it. My daughter takes a lot of pride in doing her job in the line. Another thing we often do, is I have her make veggie bags for her lunches for that week. This has helped tremendously to increase the likelihood that she eats the veggies and is also a great time to work in some math skills. I might tell her, to put 5 carrots, 4 tomatoes, 5 snap peas and 4 cucumber slices in each baggie, for example. As she is doing this, I am usually doing parts of the meal prep that wouldn’t be age appropriate for her (using knives, handling raw meat etc). To engage the baby, I usually give her a small bowl with steamed versions of the same veggies (in case she decides to eat them) with some play cutlery to pretend with. The more exposure and familiarity with these foods, the messier… uh... I mean the better! ;)
3. Cooking. My kiddos are still a bit young to have them actually cook with heat, so at this point in the food prep, I usually have them stationed at a countertop away from the stove where I am cooking. I have them working on another part of the meal like whisking the ingredients of a sauce or dressing together or arranging veggies on a baking sheet. As they grow, I plan to allow them to do more and more!
4. Serving. This is one that I missed early on, but have learned it can be the most fun for them and the most powerful in getting them to try new things. I have my 5-year-old dish out her food onto her plate and arrange it how she wants. I am always shocked when she puts way more of an item that I didn’t think she would like on her plate!
5. Clean up! Lastly, having the kids help with clean-up is a great way to teach responsibility and respect for effort of the one who made the meal! I also find that my daughter is more interested in leftovers when she helped to pack them up.
Let me know what topics you would like to see posts about!
What are your favorite tips for getting your kids involved in cooking?