You’d be hard pressed to find a more eager and enthusiastic sous chef than your young child. Kids are fascinated by what goes on in the kitchen: the stirring, the blending, the flipping, the sauteing. Cooking is a delightful bombardment of the senses, and children want to soak it all up. There are many fun, safe ways to involve kids in meal prep, which will educate and inspire, and enhance their appreciation for food. Here are five ways you can turn your little dumpling into a foodie!
1. Take Your Child To The Farmer’s Market
Frequent your local farmer’s market with your kids in tow, so they can learn where fresh, healthy food comes from (not the supermarket shelf), and so they may put a face on the farmers who grow the fruits and vegetables that comprise their meals. Giving kids the gift of this ‘farm to table’ awareness will make them more mindful and appreciative of their meals.
2. Grow a Garden
Re-visit our post on how very green your child’s thumb is when it comes to gardening. Plant a garden together, even if it means just one pot growing one vegetable, or a windowsill herb garden. When a child sees that her handiwork and tending can produce something that may proudly go into a home cooked meal, she will beam with pride.
3. Enlist Your Child’s Help in the Kitchen
Obviously, this tip requires common sense. You don’t want your toddler, or even an older child wielding knives on the cutting board, but there are countless, safe kitchen tasks you may assign to your pint-sized sous chef. Make sure to present the task with a lot of enthusiasm (especially for older kids, who may not be keen on helping out). Young children can tear lettuce for the salad, help rinse berries, stir batter, and older kids can crack eggs, read recipe instructions aloud, and grate cheese. Even just inviting your children to watch meal prep will be beneficial to their overall understanding.
4. Consider Building or Buying Your Child a Miniature Play Kitchen
If child demonstrates a keen interest in cooking, outfit her with a play kitchen so she can pretend to bake and cook til her heart’s content. My three year-old daughter is obsessed with play food and baking, and we must stir, bake and eat at least a hundred play cookies, cakes and cupcakes a day in our household. It’s also fun to reuse empty cake mix boxes, etc., by giving them to your child for use in her own kitchen. We also spend time learning all of the different types of kitchen tools and utensils: wisks, measuring cups and spoons, etc.
5. Do Meal Planning Together
Give older children a sense of responsibility and independence by asking their opinion on what would make good, healthy meals for the week. Write the grocery list together and shop for all of the required ingredients as a family if possible. Family meal time is a sacred time to connect and regroup, and doing so over an agreed upon meal everyone will like will equate to mutual enjoyment, camaraderie and teamwork.
Images: Beth Shea