We all have busy lives these days and sometimes cooking is just one more thing to get through in the day so the thought of bringing kids into the kitchen to “help” may not seem appealing on first glance. Cooking with little ones tends to take a little longer and be a little messier so it’s not necessarily practical to have their “help” every day. However when you aren’t in the middle of a hectic day I would encourage you to invite your kids into the kitchen, no matter their age, I think you’ll find that cooking can be one of the most bonding things you do together!
When my daughter was a baby I’d let her play with food, she would sit in her high chair and have a great time exploring an avocado. Feeling the bumpy texture of the skin with her little fingers, bringing it to her nose to smell it, smearing it around her tray like a painting, it usually ended up all over her face and in her hair! As much as possible we encouraged her to feed herself so that she would get to explore and get to know her food…is was a messy fun filled experience!
As a toddler I’d give her “special jobs” like washing vegetables in the sink, she’d pretend they were swimming in a pool, or sometimes she would dry the lettuce for our salad in her merry go round AKA the salad spinner!
Now that she’s older she helps out with every aspect of our family meals. We plan meals together, she helps write out our shopping list, she gets her own little cart to fill at the store and is our produce picker at the farmers market. After years of “playing” in the kitchen she is now quite comfortable in the kitchen and is has great knife skills. We made a casserole the other night and I didn’t have to chop a single vegetable :)
My advice to parents is to let food be a fun hands on learning experience!
- Let your babies play with their food! Watch them explore their food and engage their 5 senses!
- When time permits, take your children grocery shopping, let them help you pick out a rainbow of fruits and veggies!
- Trust them with tasks in the kitchen – it’s the only way they’ll learn and gain skills. Get them washing the produce, ripping lettuce, cutting soft things with plastic knives and working their way up to using a real knife, setting the table, and doing other jobs that help boost their confidence in the kitchen!
There are so many learning opportunities in the kitchen: math, physics, geography, reading and science to name a few! Cooking with your kids, when you have time and are not rushed, is a fantastic way to spend time together, pass on family recipes or create some new ones together!
I think it’s important that we engage our children in the entire process of their food. Learning where it comes from and how it grows. Helping to select, prepare and cook it. This gives parents the opportunity to have great chats about why we choose healthy foods for our bodies and how the choices we make effect us and the whole planet!