Encouraging a healthy relationship between your kids and the food they eat is essential for developing healthy eating habits.
It’s a fact – kids who spend time in the kitchen cooking with parents will be much more willing to try new foods. Involving children in meal preparation is not difficult or time-consuming at all. It should become an extension of what you’re doing anyway.
I used to think that when I was baking was the best time to invite my kids into the kitchen. But I found they lost interest very quickly and inevitably left me with flour from one of the bench to the other to clean up. So I decided to scale it down and ask for their help with small tasks.
So here are five simple ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen, no matter their age or skill level:
- Meal planning: If you’re a meal planner ask your kids to contribute. Perhaps they’ll request an old favourite or maybe they’ll challenge you with a new recipe?
- Washing salad leaves and spinning them dry in a salad spinner: This simple task converted my salad hating toddler into the salad lover he is today. For younger kids you may need to help them to hold the spinner in place, but most kids love the process of whizzing the greens around. Don’t forget to make a fuss that they helped to ‘make’ the salad come dinner time.
- Getting ingredients from the fridge and washing them (or scrubbing/peeling them for older kids): This is a great task for fostering independence and developing a knowledge about what foods are, and how to get started with preparing them. Once you’ve cut them, if they are still interested, you could get them to add them to the dish you are making or toss/mix them if it’s required.
- Making salad dressing: This is another task my youngest loves. I have a couple of recycled mustard jars with lines marked on them in permanent marker. He fills to the first line with an olive oil, the next line marks how much vinegar or lemon juice to add (generally dressings are 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar). He also adds a pinch of sea salt and grind of pepper. If we want to make it creamy he also adds a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Pop the lid on the jar and gently shake to mix. This lasts us a couple of days of salads and is so much healthier than anything store bought.
- Packing their lunches into the lunchbox: When my kids were little I would prepare all the parts of their lunch – cut up veggies/ fruit, make maybe a wrap or sandwich and they would simply pack it into their lunchbox from the chopping board. It ensures they know what’s in their lunch box and can greatly increase the likelihood of them eating it all at school.
By simply incorporating a knowledge and passion for food into their lives, you can profoundly influence your child’s interest and desire for whole foods. This lays the foundation for a lifetime of health and enjoyment of simple whole foods. What an amazing gift.
“Don’t let your children be part of a lost generation who cannot cook, has no idea where their food comes from or how to prepare a balanced meal.” – Jamie Oliver