When I was a child, I loved running errands with my mom. I especially loved going to the grocery store and picking out colorful produce and other staples we needed for the week. I would wander through the produce section eagerly anticipating a new fruit or vegetable sample. I'll never forget the day I tried star fruit for the first time; amazed that a plant could produce something so beautiful and sweet.
At home I enjoyed helping with meal preparations and remember wanting to whisk eggs just like my dad. He was so fast and made the best scrambled eggs. I probably made a mess but after some practice I was finally able to keep most of the eggs in the dish. Silly memories as they may be, my story is an example of the importance of getting kids in the kitchen.
Involving your children in the cooking and shopping experience will help them build valuable skills and learn the importance of their food choices as they get older. Talk about what you're eating and why you enjoy eating healthy foods. The skills I learned at a young age formed the foundation for a path that has brought me so much happiness- being able to help others develop these same skills and build healthy habits for years to come.
Cooking with your kids or grandkids is a great bonding activity but to avoid any stress, pick recipes that are kid-friendly and start slowly. Once they master the basics, give them more advanced tasks.
Here are some examples of how you can get your kids in the kitchen.
- Wipe tabletops
- Wash fruits and vegetables
- Tear lettuce or greens
- Break cauliflower or broccoli into pieces
- Carry ingredients from one place to another
- Knead and shape dough
- Mix or pour ingredients
- Shake liquids in a covered container to mix them
- Apply soft spreads
- Put things in the trash
- Peel oranges or hard-boiled eggs
- Mash bananas or cooked beans with a fork
- Cut parsley and green onions with kid-safe scissors
- Set the table
5 to 6-year-olds can:
- Measure ingredients
- Use an egg beater
Let them be creative. For a healthy snack, let them choose what they want to create from a selection of colorful and nutrient-rich ingredients.
- A new kind of bread (whole grain or rye)
- Whole grain crackers
- Small bagels
- Small pieces of whole-wheat pita bread
Spreads could include:
- Fat-free or low-fat cream cheese or cheese spread
- All natural peanut butter
- Bean dip
- Jelly with no sugar added
Toppings could include:
- Slices of apple or banana
- Dried fruit
- Chopped vegetables
- Spiralized zucchini
Getting your kids to model these healthy behaviors may take some time and they may need to see you modeling a behavior several times before they start copying it. Even if they don't remember specific behaviors, they will learn from the overall pattern of what you do. Encourage them to use their sensory tasting words and have fun!
Source: The Department of Health and Human Services