By Grace Befort, MCFM Nutrition Intern
Getting your kids involved in the kitchen and cooking with you is a great way to introduce the pleasures of cooking and healthy, local food – all while having fun and spending quality time together. The more you encourage kids to participate in the kitchen, the more they’ll understand and love the food they create and eat. Plus, it’s a great way to teach math, science and safety skills. Here are six tips to help you as you bring the joy of cooking and eating healthy to your children.
1 – Start them young. Market Chef Beth Jones stresses the importance of getting your kids involved in the kitchen as young as possible. This way cooking together becomes a normal and ongoing experience for your children. To give you an idea of how to get your little ones cooking, here are some age appropriate tasks:
- Toddlers: Squeezing lemons and limes; washing produce; using the salad spinner; picking leaves off herbs; some gentle stirring
- 4-5 years: Stirring independently, greasing pans, introduce cutting with a butter knife; measure ingredients, with assistance; some pouring, with assistance
- 6-7 years: Dicing and mincing vegetables, supervised; peeling; pouring; mixing; cracking eggs; forming patties
- 8+: You know your child best, but at this age many can perform most kitchen tasks independently or with some supervision
2 – Teach and encourage safety. Before you begin cooking together, give your kids a safety lesson and provide reminders as you go. This includes basic safety such as using knives, washing hands and produce, and the stove. As they begin, you can introduce knife skills using a butter knife or a plastic disposable knife to cut herbs and soft fruits and vegetables. While safety is important, accept that little cuts and ouches will happen, and your kids will learn from them.
3 – Let go of the outcome. Expect the cooking process to take longer than it usually would and accept that the outcome likely won’t be perfect. Not everything will taste or look great. As Market Chef Jenny Breen stresses, “imperfection in meals is okay.” When you are cooking with kids, the journey is just as fun as the destination.
4 – Let go of the mess. Similarly, don’t worry about the mess. When cooking with little ones, a messy kitchen is inevitable. You can clean later (your kids can help!) and it’s worth it for the fun you’ll have together.
5 – Taste as you go. Let your children taste veggies as they chop them, lick batters as they mix, and try the sauce as they stir. They can decide what they think of the food and what they think it might need. Plus, it will teach healthy snacking. Don’t be afraid to revisit certain foods later that may not go over well the first time.
6 – Consider investing in some fun tools. While we at the Market believe you don’t need a lot of fancy gadgets to cook a great meal, some fun kitchen tools can help get kids intrigued and having fun in the kitchen. Items like a salad spinner, garlic chopper, strawberry claw, molds and fun measuring cups are hits that can turn your children into excited future chefs.
Family Friendly Recipes
Combine family time, fun and food as you and your little chefs make delicious, veggie-packed recipes. Your kids will love eating their creations, and you’ll love feeding them healthy, local produce.