When you have young children in the house, healthy eating and good food habits are important, whether your kids are adventurous and willing to try new things or a little more hesitant about trying unfamiliar foods. These picky eaters, however, may require a little more attention to make sure they are getting what they need to grow well without having to use supplements. One good way to get any child more excited about healthy food is to get them involved in the cooking process.
This can start at a very young age. Encourage any interest that your toddler shows in what you’re doing if they’re hanging around while you cook. Show them the ingredients you’re using even if they don’t understand the full process. This is also a good time to start teaching them about basic kitchen safety and cleanliness, and get them involved in setting up, serving food and cleaning.
Giving kids jobs to help out will help them get more invested in the dishes being made, and will also get them thinking more generally about food from the beginning. Toddlers can help to stir and mix anything that isn’t hot, and can mash potatoes, bananas, or anything else that’s soft or already been pureed. They can also help to pull apart herbs as well as veggies like lettuce and beans. While you’ll be worried about safety at this stage, don’t worry about mess—it’s all part of the learning process.
As they begin to get older, they might enjoy cracking some eggs. As they get further into primary-school age, they’ll be able to handle the stove a bit better and can stir or sauté hot food and soups. They can also use the oven. They should still be supervised, but can learn a variety of new skills. As they gain coordination and confidence, they’ll be able to start chopping and using other knife skills. Again, they may make some mistakes, but keep encouraging them.
Kids old enough to read can help you follow recipes while cooking and can learn food math to adjust a recipe to different numbers of servings. As long as you’ve given them the chance to taste a variety of foods, even kids under ten can plan an entire meal. Giving them opportunities for responsibility won’t just be a help to you around the house, it will give them confidence and help to breed a real enjoyment of, and comfort with, food. It will also give you confidence that once they’re old enough to stay home alone and feed themselves, they won’t be dependent on microwaves.
If you have any recipes that you think can bring kids in to the kitchen be sure to tweet them to us here!