Does your child have the basic food knowledge that will set them up to be competent adults in the kitchen? Here’s how.

My husband was one of eight kids. His mum had seven kids in eight years and he came along 10 years later. He was consequently loved and doted on throughout his childhood – everything done for him. As a result, when I met him, he was domestically challenged to say the least. His mum admits to me that she ruined him. She takes full blame because she (and his seven older siblings) did all the domestic duties and he never learned how to manage even the basics.

Parenting is really tough. We love and care for our kids so much and that means we often underestimate their domestic abilities. For me, my life is also busy juggling work and family life so often I feel it’s quicker to do many things myself and know it’s been done properly, than ask my kids to chip in and help. But that is something I’m working on changing and this one quote by Ann Landers is ingrained in my brain each time I go to do something my kids should be doing for themselves: “It’s not what you DO for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that makes them successful human beings.”

Whilst most domestic duties are anything but fun or interesting, teaching your kids about food and cooking is different and, I believe, a skill every child needs to develop (coming from a self-confessed foodie!). Let’s face it, we can all get through life with an unmade bed, but we need to eat and the more nourishing food we eat, the better off we’ll be, right?

So one of the things that I’ve always been very proactive about is teaching my kids about whole food – what it is, where it comes from, how different flavours work well together to make a meal. But to be honest, the food education they’ve received from me (which I believe will set them up to be competent cooks and food lovers) hasn’t been either laborious or messy like many people think. It’s also something I began when my kids were pretty young, so I thought I’d share a few simple tips and strategies to ensure your kids one day, will be competent cooks and food lovers too.

Talk about food

Talk to them from babies about what food is, where it comes from, what it tastes like, what it smells like, what it looks like, what texture it has. Anything at all to do with food. When my kids were little it was a really great way to engage them at the table and keep them focussed on what was in front of them. The background info definitely helped with convincing them to try new foods (without any stress). When they were a little older (primary school age), we often played quizzes. Is it a fruit or vegetable? Does it grow on a tree, bush, vine or below the ground? Any engagement I believe, is a good foundation for them loving eating real food.

Get them to help you shop

I always used shopping as another opportunity to engage my kids. When my reserves were good, I’d get them hands-on involved (helping to bag fruit and veggies) or picking non-breakable items off the shelves to put in the trolley. When I was time poor or feeling frazzled, I’d put them in the toddler seat of the trolley and get them to point to what I was looking for or count how many apples I put in the bag. When walking through the aisles I’d tell them what I was looking for and ask them to help me ‘find’ it.

In the kitchen

This is the part so many mums resist, feeling it will be too messy. But what if you got them involved in helping on a smaller scale rather than cooking from start to finish (it’s much more realistic for both of you). For little kids, that might be placing pieces of carrot in the salad bowl or tossing the salad. This takes a few minutes and is not stressful or messy. It will also hold their attention a whole lot more than baking a cake from start to finish. Remember to keep the involvement age appropriate. It’s a known fact that kids that help prepare a meal, are much more likely to eat it themselves.

Kids who recognise whole foods and know how to prepare a basic meal are going to enter adulthood with a lifelong important skill. I think this is an amazing headstart that any parent, from any walk of life, can give their kids.

Well Nourished

Well Nourished  

Founded by Georgia, a mum, cookbook author, naturopath with 19 years experience and the creator of The Well Nourished Lunch Box Challenge, Well Nourished delivers wholesome, easy-to-follow recipes targeted to busy families. Readers flock to Well Nourished for inspiring health advice and free, nourishing, family friendly recipes. // www.wellnourished.com.au