Cooking With Kids

Recently I wrote an article which gave my top 2 tips for getting kids to eat well/healthily.  Well, today, on Food Day, I give my third top tip: let them help prepare the food.  And I don’t mean just getting them to bake cookies with you.  Although fun, baking shouldn’t be the only time parents let their children help.  I understand if someone is nervous with hot stoves or knives, but under supervision, children of many ages can do so much to be involved.  Sometimes, just scooping out frozen peas from a bag, measuring rice, or simply stirring a pot gives a child the sense of involvement which in turn can get them more interested in the foods you will serve them.  Peeling carrots and potatoes has been one of our children’s favorite ways to lend a hand.

Stirring the vegetables stir-fry.

Stirring the vegetable & shrimp stir-fry.

My sons have been helping us on and off most of their lives.  We showed them how to cut with knives from about 4 years old up.  Yes, sharp chef’s knives.  (Under supervision and something that is not too difficult/slippery to cut. ) They’ve been stirring pots and adding ingredients for what seems like ages.  My eldest son is now 11 and he prepares his own fried egg and cheese sandwiches for breakfast or some simple meals for lunch/dinner.   He’s in Boy Scouts and they have to plan/shop for/cook their own meals when they go camping each month which is fabulous and opening new and different methods of cooking too (Dutch ovens in a fire pit).

My sons will help set and clear the table and will also do dishes/pots & pans, but that’s more about discipline and contributing to the family.  Cooking with kids is truly a fabulous way to try new foods and expand their palate. IMG_3208

Often kids are more likely to eat the food they’ve contributed in preparing because they’re proud they helped.  My youngest once said “It tastes even better when I help make it!”  One of my girlfriends said that’s because you put love in as an ingredient.

So, tonight or tomorrow or another day soon… give them a chance to help out making something healthy.  It’ll teach them what the food looks like before it’s cooked, during and of course after.  Share with them and watch their eagerness in eating that food.  

Let them help; it’ll help them.

You will often find, “Cook with them” or “Let them help in the kitchen” high up on the list of suggestions on how to get kids to eat healthier foods. I agree. I do sometimes see parents or even teachers letting the kids help when it comes to making cookies or baking a cake, but it’s not as often that I notice them help make a healthier meal or a salad.  I do think it’s good to get them involved in helping prepare many different foods so they learn more about them and may be more interested in eating that food they had a hand in. 
I’m not saying my kids help me on a daily basis but they do love to help and do it often enough that they feel involved and interested.  They do seem more enthusiastic about the meal and even more eager to try it because they’re proud of their contribution. I also may go further than some would ever consider at my sons’ ages; like letting them use knives.  

They need to learn; so who better to teach them and what safer place than at home?  It took a while for my husband to let my eldest son use a chef’s knife, but even he relaxed a bit and realized we needed to show him how to handle it properly and to position his fingers that hold whatever he’s cutting.  Now they all help. 
My eldest isn’t very coordinated but he’s doing a fine job and loves to feel empowered with the trust we’ve given him.  He now feels confident enough to fix himself sandwiches and other quick meals when he’s hungry.  We even give my 4 year old a steak knife at the dinner table.  I feel it’s often safer to give a sharp knife than a dull one, and serrated knives are less likely to slip. Again, as long as they’re supervised and shown the proper way to handle the knives, they should be fine and it should be good for their confidence.

So, get them involved in food preparation even teach them how to use knives— they’ll be better off for it all!  And before you know it, they might create a great meal for you!