“I Want to Help!” Tips for Getting Kids Involved in the Kitchen
Kids are often fascinated by the cooking process, from wanting a hand in dumping and stirring ingredients, to needing a peek in the oven to see what’s cooking. This is a great thing to harness in the journey of teaching your children to eat well! Take advantage of a kid’s natural curiosity and invite them into the process. Here are some tips to get you started.
Cooking Time is…
1) Learning Time: Cooking is one part math, one part science, and one part deliciousness, so have some fun with it and your kids. You can measure ingredients into cups and spoons for the little ones, but let the older ones handle this part themselves. Talk about how we need to measure very carefully for the recipe to turn out right (it’s ingredient chemistry!), and discuss the difference between teaspoons, tablespoons, and cups. For younger children you can use comparative language such as, for teaspoon: 1 teaspoon is small, a ½ is smaller, and a ¼ teaspoon is smallest. For older children you can talk about the fractions involved.
2) Tasting Time: Go ahead and let your child sample the safe ingredients (no raw eggs!) and talk about how some are yummy on their own (like raw veggies) but others need to be cooked with other things before becoming good (like flour). Also encourage your child to taste test a recipe and decide if it needs a little more of something, a dash of salt perhaps, or maybe an extra sprinkle of chocolate chips. Encourage the creativity in your little cook!
3) New Flavor Time: Encourage your child to help cook family favorites, but also use the kitchen as a place to introduce new things. Skeptical little chefs are more likely to try a new food if they’ve had a hand in preparing it!
4) Family Time: Besides the time in the kitchen, there’s the time that comes after. Experts show significant benefits to the family meal, including fewer undesirable behaviors in the teen years, and increased bonding and communication between family members. So make that special dish your child helped create be the star of the family meal and reap double the benefits.
5) Finish with Cleaning Time: Have your child see a kitchen project through to the end, and this includes the clean up! You can make it a game and see who can wipe up the crumbs the fastest, or make the biggest pile of bubbles in the sink, etc. Take advantage of this opportunity to teach such concepts as following through on a project and cleaning up after oneself.
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