By Katie Johnson
New research shows that the magic of cooking with kids extends beyond the kitchen to kids embracing healthy food choices and trying new dishes at the table. For families trying to promote appetites for healthy foods this is fantastic news.
The study, published in Preventing Chronic Disease, by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reveals that involving children in cooking classes and/or food preparation activities can make them more open to eating different foods at the dinner table. Children in these programs were more likely, as reported by their parents, to explore new foods and eat fruits and veggies than prior to their participation, and as a member of the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, we realize just how important that is.
With this new research on your side, why not start a new cooking tradition or two that will transport the whole family into the kitchen? You don’t have to be a chef to share the joy of cooking with kids. Need a little help getting started? Here are some tips to help move that party into the kitchen!
- Map out a strategy for tasks, who does what. Many kids love to create lists, and enjoy the satisfaction that comes with checking things off as they get done.
- Have your child choose his/her special apron. Zazzle has some cool designs. Or, if you have a bit of time and energy, try your hand at making one at home from a thin dish towel. This “5 Minute Kids Apron” video will show you how. Plus, you get two fun activities if you make the apron before cooking!
- Decide on a menu that everyone likes. If possible, get kids to help brainstorm, shop, and make to-do lists. If you use family recipes you can talk about the history of them while you cook!
- Always try to keep things light, fun, and funny. Welcome that quirky angle that kids love. Transform boring sandwiches into fabulous animals with simple cookie cutters or make fun shapes with vegetables. Pinterest is a fantastic place for ideas.
- Cooking is more than just baking. Try to get kids involved in the savory dish preparations by adding the spices, stirring (if appropriate), or working with their hands to clean veggies.
- Jobs should be tailored to a child’s age and skill. Don’t frustrate your child (or yourself) by giving him/her too much work. Mashing potatoes, sifting flour, and frosting are all fun easy jobs. Peeling with a peeler requires some skill a pre-teen could master.
- If you have a pet that eats peelings, such as guinea pig or a rabbit, make that food connection: animals like to eat fresh veggies, too.
- Make a gentle pitch to kids about how much fun cooking at home is. If you’re making a carrot cake, mention that the carrots contain vitamins that help you see.
- Clean up is part of cooking. Blast some tunes and make it fun!
- Chat while you cook together. Reflect on the skills they’ve learned and how they can be applied to other meals. For example, if they’ve used a hand held blender, they can make their own smoothies or milk shakes. Make an announcement at mealtime that the amazing salad dressing was prepared by Susie, or the fantastic apple crisp was made by Joey. Kids will be filled with confidence and pride, and so will you.
Katie Johnson is an insurance Claims Examiner by day and freelance expert on social media and guest blogger for the Calories In and Calories Out Blog by night. A recent college graduate with a degree in Public Health, Katie writes on topics such as health promotion, nutrition and overall wellness.
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