You are what you eat, so eat well!
I passionately believe all children belong in the kitchen. Cooking is a fantastic opportunity to share one of the most important lifelong skill everyone must learn.Everyone eats cooking, therefore, is an important life skill that every child needs. Cooking brings together family traditions and holidays, favorite foods and the foods and traditions from other countries.
It can be one of the most fun and bonding activities you can do. I know that for many people cooking can feel more like a chore rather than a pleasure. For busy parents with overflowing schedules, time is limited and it is so tempting to do it yourself to get it over with quickly. Yet, let me encourage you, the time in the kitchen with your kids is time well spent! This is a skill, no different from potty training or learning to walk, or riding a bike, chaos, dirty messes, spills and tears along the way, together with laughter and joy and the celebration of a meal shared with love ones. In the end there you have food savy kids with healthy and nutritious skills for a lifetime.
Cook when you have the patience. Begin with the kids to washing, mixing, measuring, stirring or cutting, something little so they are part of preparing the meal.Begin with easy recipes that young children, after some practice, can do by themselves. The kitchen can and should be a happy place for love, play and pleasure.
The Kitchen as a Classroom
Kids can learn so many important skill in the kitchen such as:
- Nutrition- You are what you eat and why
- Reading- Recipes introduce new ideas, cultures and traditions
- Math skills how to measure, add and subtract and multiply
- Science lessons how ingredients work together, and how they help bodies grow.
- Self-esteem- Pride from making and serving food they made themselves.
Remember the ultimate goal, you are not only teaching healthy eating skills; you are influencing a lifelong eater.
* People are fed by the Food Industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the Health Industry, which pays no attention to food. ~Wendell Berry
Tips for Cooking with Kids
- Invite your kids to help to plan a meal or pick a recipe.Planning is part of the fun! Encourage them to feel they are making the choices whenever possible.Have kids read the recipe twice and make sure they understand what they need to do.
- Have the kids make a list of ingredients, find them in your kitchen, and/or shop for them. This way, children can learn how to organize and follow through, as well as think ahead. Give your kids a sense of control and accomplishment by letting them make choices whenever possible.
- Set up clear rules and supervision. Create a safe place where kids can cook. The kitchen is full of dangerous pieces of equipment- knives, hot stoves and ingredients. Supervise remembering some basic safety tip helps- Pots and pans handles should point to the sides, and if you are not tall enough to see into the pan stay away from it.When working with beginners stay in the kitchen until the cooking is finished
- Everyone needs to clean their hands and the surface they will be using.
- Expect the mess The mess will happen. Cleanup is part of the learning.
- Allow plenty of time. Don’t think you can do anything quickly when you’ve got a new helper in the kitchen.
- Give younger kids a sturdy stepping stool or bench to stand on so they can see what they are doing, or provide a child height table for them.
- Remember the age of and ability the child and their appropriate attention span and do not expect perfection. Also not everyone will ever enjoy cooking, but the basics still need to be learned. Let the experience remain fun for everyone.Encourage your older children them to start preparing food for themselves. Once they have mastered sandwich making, why not encourage them to help make their packed lunches for school?
- Practice math as you measure and stir. Your child can count and help measure to build math skills. How many teaspoons to a cup…how much is 1/3 cup…
- Substitute ingredients and equipment as needed. To avoid a trip to the store, make simple substitutions. There are lots of substitutes, we have included many on other pages. Just because you do not have something, do not let that stop you. Just because you have a food allergy, you can still have great food. A clean empty tuna can cut a circle as well as a cookie cutter. A clean smooth glass bottle rolls out dough like a rolling-pin.
- There is no way you can make a mistake as long as everyone is enjoying themselves. Remember not everyone is the same, some adults and kids enjoy cooking more than others. One person’s pleasure, is not the pleasure for all.
- Introduce new foods. Kids often will try unfamiliar foods, including vegetables and fruits, when they transform them into a tasty dish.
- Make set-up and clean-up part of the routine. Kids may love using a broom or dustpan as much as they love the cooking, but save cleaning until the cake is in the oven.
Children under 5
1. Spread soft butter or peanut butter on toast or a bagel.
2. Decorate cookies, cupcakes, or their sandwich.
3. Mixing with their hands and stirring with a whisk or spoon.
4. Cracking eggs.
5. Using a cookie cutter for cutting shapes for biscuits, cookies or toast
6. Kneading dough
7. Washing and cutting vegetables and fruit
8. Using a sieve, measuring cups, measuring spoons,
9. Greasing the cookie sheet or muffin tin
10. Mashing potatoes or avocados with a potato masher
11. Peeling vegetables with a vegetable peeler
12. Learning to measure and weigh ingredients.
As they get older
1. Have the child read the recipe, gather the ingredients and necessary equipment (measuring spoons, cups, etc.).
2. Encourage them to make their school lunch or simple breakfast.
3. Baking cakes, and casseroles are easy and very satisfying.
6. Use electrical kitchen appliances such as blenders, food processors, electric mixers and microwaves.
7. Operate the stove top without adult supervision.
8. Drain cooked pasta into a colander.
9. Remove a tray of cookies from the oven.
10. Heat food in the microwave without adult supervision.
Teens should be able to prepare an entire meal and know how to do the cleanup. Allow teens impress their friends by inviting them home, for a dinner they prepare. Let your kids try cooking a meal for the whole family once a week… so you can have a dinner they made and have an evening off!
Hopefully, by this stage, you will know that you have succeeded in producing a self-reliant young person, who will be able to fend for themselves when they leave home!
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