Kids who help to make their food are more likely to eat it… I’ve heard this advice many times, and have to say it’s true in my experience!
As a mom, I suspect you want to have your kids learning along side of you in the kitchen. Or, perhaps, you wish you wanted them there with you?
You know it’s a good idea! Cooking along side Mom teaches healthy eating habits, and it encourages kids to try new foods when they are the one in charge of the handfuls of spinach going into that smoothie or the sprinkling the raisins into that whole grain banana bread. It also encourages helping out at home and independence… etc etc. Many reasons!
“Yes, but they get into everything, end up spilling stuff, and it’s really just quicker and easier to do it myself…”
…Ever thought that? Your thoughts are undoubtedly more patient than mine ;P but just in case you and I share some thoughts, i’ll tell you a few ways i’ve learned to include even the tiniest helpers in the kitchen (sanely). 🙂
5 ways to include your (young) kids in the kitchen:
1. Cutting: Scissors are your friend
It’s so easy with scissors! You don’t have to worry about that sharp knife until your kitchen helper is old enough to use it responsibly. Grab a pair of kids scissors and wash them up. (Then realize that those ones are covered in ‘never come off in a million years’ glitter glue, and hunt down a different pair…) Give them to your child and let him help! Spinach, dried fruit, sliced peppers that need to be diced- you get the idea, i’m sure!
Once your helper is past this stage, start with soft foods (avocado, bananas, berries, etc) and a plastic kids’ knife.
2. Measuring: Make it easy for toddlers!
Handing a toddler a measuring cup and having her scoop your flour is likely going to turn your fluffy muffins into cute little pancakes in a paper wrapper. It’s all very nice that she has had her ‘need for independence’ square checked off for the day, but one cup really has to be one cup…
Solution: Pre-measure your flour into a separate bowl and then hand tiny chef a 1/4 cup measure. Let her measure how ever many ‘cups’ of flour it takes to empty that pre-measured flour into your mixing bowl. This will take a slight bit more time and create an extra dirty dish, but
dishwashers were invented for a reason i’m sure you love your dear little one enough to persevere. 🙂
3. Tap into that energy: Introduce the job of the runner
This can actually be a great time saver! Kids have high levels of energy to start with, so capitalize on it! Invite your preschooler to gather ingredients as you need them, your toddler to bring scraps to the compost or garbage, or your kindergarten aged child to run out to the garden to pull the 3 carrots you need for the soup!
4. Bring out their inner artist
This is fun for kids from toddler to tween, tweaked depending on age! There are the obvious jobs like adding sprinkles or icing, but food art doesn’t stop there!
Get your cookie cutters into action!
-Make fun shaped sandwiches with large cutters
-Cut slices of cheese or meat into small shapes for crackers
-Cucumber slices are easy to cut with small cookie cutters
-Cut melons or other fruit into small hearts or flowers (to be used for rainbow fairy wand kabobs, for example)
Another way your little artist can help is by using a squeeze bottle filled with pancake batter to create amazing
monkey? bear…giraffe! (and easily recognizable) animal pancakes! Add blueberry features to the face!
Let your (responsible) preschooler make animals, boats, etc, using fruit and toothpicks! Grapes and berries are easy to use for this.
5. Inspire curiosity about new foods by reading!
Reading naturally inspires curiosity and you can use that to encourage your kids to engage with new foods or tasks in the kitchen. A curious child is a good thing when it comes to trying new foods!
- Preschoolers: Read ‘green eggs and ham’ with your preschooler and remember together that the nameless (not ‘Sam I am’) character sure didn’t try his food before he decided it was no good!
- With toddlers, read a first words book that has simple pictures of foods and teach him the names.
- Early elementary: read the ‘little house’ series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, where food preparation is often described in great detail… some of my favourite books 🙂
- All ages: Look through cookbooks together with your kids and have them chose recipes they would like to add to your (very in depth and well organized) meal plan for the week!
You can also check out my storybook with the theme of getting kids loving greens here!
So get those little hands measuring, stirring, and adding fistfuls of spinach to smoothies! You’ll likely find it is worth your efforts and patience, not only in possible willingness to try new foods, but also in the fun you and your small chef will have.
There will be more mess.
It will take more time.
But you and your child will have lots of fun, laughter and happiness filled moments too.
And your child is learning a love of healthy eating. Any extra patience required is worth it. Right? 🙂
I’d love to hear your suggestions! How do you include your young kids in the kitchen? We can all use more ideas, so leave a quick comment below to share your best advice!