By: Casey Parr, Community Outreach and Marketing Specialist, Penfield Children’s Center
Involving your children with cooking should be fun! When children get some say in what they eat, they are more likely to branch out and try new foods. In the grocery store, you can give them a choice; encourage them to try vegetables and fruits of different shapes and colors. You can use the kitchen as a way to teach about math, a place to have deep conversations with your kids, and a way to pass down fun family recipes! When it comes to preparing healthy meals and snacks, here are some fun ways to include your children in cooking.
Ask them what they would like to eat. Maybe they will only suggest pizza and then you have to guide that suggestion strategically into more of a vegetable marinara dish. However, they might just surprise you and give a healthy suggestion of a meal you have not prepared in a while! Give children some ownership in what they are going to eat.
Let them branch out in the store. Take them through the fruits and vegetables section. Pick out something that looks fun and new. Base your meal on that! You could discover a new family favorite.
Give them age-appropriate cooking tasks. They could start with peeling a banana, emptying a bag of frozen vegetables into a pan, or stirring a pot on the stove. There are even some cooking tools and gadgets made specifically for kids. When they are involved in the cooking of a meal, they can take pride as they eat it.
Find a system that works for your family. If your children get up very early, maybe that is the perfect time to involve them in making pancakes. However, trying to fit in a complicated meal before soccer practice might be too stressful for your family. Do not feel pressure to involve your kids every time but rather incorporate them when you can.
Practice safety. Before you get in the kitchen with your child, address some common safety situations to make sure kids understand rules and responsibilities. That way, they are not disappointed about what they cannot do; they know which things they get to do!
Expect the unexpected. Whenever you involve children, things are going to get messier! You might lose an egg but what you have to gain is so worth the mess! Take a deep breath, laugh it off, and keep going.
Cooking is a great way to stay connected as a family. When kids’ hands are preoccupied with working on dinner, they are more likely to talk to you about what is going on with their lives. It is a great time to start the day on the right foot or end the day with some family connection. So what are you making for dinner tonight? Put on your favorite music, chop up some vegetables, and get cooking!
What is your favorite meal to make with your kids?