There’s really no better way to get children excited about a lifetime of choosing, preparing, and eating delicious, healthy foods than to cook with them. Encouraging children to use all their senses as they prepare food – looking, touching, tasting, smelling and listening – will help them understand where their food comes from and how important healthy eating is to young, growing bodies.
Though it may take a little more time, It’s easy to involve children in meal preparation at any age, from tots to teens. Spending time together in the kitchen is a wonderful way to create memories and lessons that will last a lifetime. The key to capturing their culinary imaginations is to make cooking fun – and just a little bit challenging
Tips for Cooking with Children of All Ages
- Start with clean hands. Good cooks of all ages always wash their hands thoroughly before cooking and keep them clean throughout the process. Sample only with a clean utensil that is used once and then washed.
- Getting messy is part of the process…and the fun. Kids should learn that all good cooks clean as they go and leave the kitchen clean after the meal is finished.
- When dealing with short attention spans, assign quick, easily managed jobs and give clear direction. Tackle one task at a time and keep each step simple.
- Use your time in the kitchen to experiment with new foods. Expanding young palates is one of the many benefits of cooking with kids.
- Let your child help with menu planning and shopping. In addition to cooking, children can learn everything from time management to math skills when they are part of this process.
Growing into becoming a good cook:
Preschool age children are perfecting their motor skills and developing their fine motor skills. They will enjoy activities such as:
- washing vegetables and fruits
- wiping tables
- dipping vegetables and fruits
- tearing lettuce and salad greens
- breaking bread for stuffing
- snapping fresh beans
- mixing batters
- kneading bread dough
Elementary age children are learning to control smaller muscles in their fingers. Offer them experiences such as:
- opening cartons and bottles
- pouring liquids into a batter
- shaking a milk drink
- rolling bananas in cereal for a snack
- mashing soft fruits and vegetables
- measuring dry and liquid ingredients
Tweens & Teens
Tweens & Teens are learning sequences and problem solving. Offer them experiences such as:
- beating eggs for scrambled eggs and omelets
- warming soup in saucepan and ladling into bowls
- shredding cheese for quesadillas and assembling for microwave
- pulling cooked slow-cooker pork for barbecue sandwiches
- tossing cubed vegetables with oil & seasoning and placing on roasting pan