Mealtime is a way of bringing families together but cooking doesn't have to be reserved just for the adults. Allowing children to help with food preparation will help them become excited about their meals, gives them an idea of where food comes from and will help pave the way for healthy habits in the future. Recent studies also suggest that children who help with meal preparation are more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables and enjoy them.
More: 5 Healthy Ways to Cook
Here are some tips to help get young children active in the kitchen and excited about food.
- Wash fruits and vegetables: Children can rinse fruit and vegetables under the kitchen faucet or use a vegetable brush. Another fun option is to let them dry greens with a salad spinner and see how fast they can get it going.
- Prepare the fruits and veggies: Young chefs might be too small to chop produce, but they can peel bananas, shuck corn and snap peas.
- Let them pick a side dish: Can't decide which vegetable to serve alongside the main course? Let the kids decide! Giving children a choice between two options allows them to develop reasoning skills and empowers them.
- Shape meatballs: Children love to get their hands a bit dirty. Tasks like shaping meatballs allow them to touch new textures while refining their fine motor skills.
- Give the kids a spoon: Stirring ingredients is an important job that shows children how ingredients can be blended together with one simple motion. Plus, who doesn't like to lick the spoon afterward.
- Measuring ingredients: Spooning out flour or pouring spoonfuls of liquid into a bowl or dish can get the kids excited about math or counting.
- Set and clear the table: Children can place dishes around the table and even find creative ways to fold napkins. After the meal, involve the kids in clean up by clearing the table or loading the dishwasher.
- Talk about food safety: While teaching an appreciation for cooking, show children the importance of kitchen and food safety. Lessons like staying away from hot or sharp surfaces or not eating raw meats are important.
It takes time for anyone to master a new skill, including children. These tips are about opening up the kitchen to chefs of all ages. If there is a particular meal or dish they love to help with, allow them to take the lead—with supervision of course. The meal may not come out perfectly but the memories made and skills learned will last a lifetime.
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