Let’s face it, in today’s world, it’s hard to carve out time to spend together in the kitchen. We’re lucky if we eat meals together as a family, let alone, try and make the meal together. Yes, including kids in cooking and preparing meals can be daunting: it means extra time and definitely extra clean-up. But, it might be worth the extra effort, as there are benefits that everyone (kids and parents) can gain from the experience.
When kids are in the kitchen, they have the opportunity to become more interested in food. If they are part of the preparation of meals, they might be more willing to try different foods. Cooking also can boost confidence as children are accomplishing something and learning skills they can use for the rest of their lives. If a child has prepared a meal, he or she is more likely to be excited about sitting down as a family to eat it. You as a parent get extra quality time with your children to see how they learn and it allows you to support and give praise to your child, thus strengthening your relationship. This time together allows you and your child to interact with a common goal, to share stories and keep communications open.
So how do we start including kids in the kitchen? Don’t plan to start in the busiest time of year. Pick a weekend when schedules might be a little more relaxed. Children around the ages of two or three show interest in being in the kitchen and that’s a great time to begin. Start with easy dishes, such as making pasta, smoothies or sandwiches.
Trying to figure out what your child is capable of doing? Here are some ideas.
- If your child is under five years old, let him or her wash vegetables in a colander, scrub, tear, break foods into smaller pieces (bread, lettuce, green beans), take corn husks off the cob, measure and pour ingredients, mix with a wooden spoon, turn an electric mixer on and off (with supervision, of course).
- If your child is older, around eight years old and up, try letting him or her crack the eggs, read a recipe, grate cheese, possibly cut vegetables or fruit with a dinner knife, maybe even invent a recipe or two.
Here’s a recipe that’s easy to start with kids of all ages:
Easy English Muffin Pizza
- 1 English muffin split in half
- 2-3 Tablespoons tomato sauce
- ½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Favorite toppings: slices of pepperoni, bell pepper slices, sliced onions and sliced mushrooms
Place English muffin halves on a cookie sheet. Evenly spread sauce over each half. Sprinkle cheese evenly and add toppings. Bake in a preheated oven (450 degrees) for approximately 6-8 minutes. Be sure to turn the oven light on so your child can see what happens and to make sure it doesn’t burn!
What recipes do you enjoy cooking with your kids? Share in the comments below!
Karin Evans, MA, RD, LDN wrote this article on behalf of A Chance to Heal, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention of eating disorders. Karin is dedicated to helping parents maintain their children’s eating competence and body esteem. As a registered dietitian with over 15 years of experience, Karin is a former counselor and nutrition therapist at the Philadelphia Renfrew Center, and is currently with the Valley Green Counseling practice, where she provides eating disorder prevention programs for the community and nutrition therapy for families and men & women of all ages. She lives in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband and two children.