Getting Kids in The Kitchen

It’s about to get messy;)

We want the next generation to eat right, make wise choices, and develop a healthy love for food. There seems to be no better way to do this than to invite our kids into the kitchen with us from a young age.  Similar to my approach with them when it comes to fitness (encouraging them to play, choose their own activities, and playing along with them), cooking with the kids can be a fun, interactive, and engaging activity.  Not only does it teach them basic kitchen skills, they also learn about nutrition, creativity and even a little bit of math and science. Even more importantly, by allowing them to be involved in the food buying and preparation process, they begin to form positive associations with healthy food that will hopefully stay with them for the rest of their lives.  In my experience, when we give kids the information they need to make educated choices, they choose wisely. 

To be honest, I was a little worried about inviting the kids into “my” domain at first.  And sure there have been spills to mop up, white towels with blueberry stains, and extra dishes to wash.  But the mess and extra time are worth it. 

If you’re like me, the days feel like they just whiz by and we don’t get to “hang out” with the kids.  And you’re probably already spending a great deal of time in the kitchen anyways. Having the kids in the kitchen is a great way for us to enjoy even more quality time together.  It gives us a chance to chat about their day without feeling like we’re interrogating them.  Plus as they’re getting older and becoming more responsible (and more coordinated), they’re actually becoming quite helpful!The best way to introduce kids to cooking is to do it in a fun and engaging way. A lot of people are intimidated by the prospect of cooking with their kids, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are a few simple tips to help you get started with cooking in the kitchen with your kids:

Make the time 

It goes without saying, but the best time to start is probably NOT after a stressful day at school when we’re rushing to get to soccer or gymnastics. I would suggest starting on a day when you have the time and patience to give them your full attention. Starting out we loved doing breakfasts/brunches on weekends, or baking in the evenings. Make it a date! Get them excited for it with a little prep the day before. Once you’re in the kitchen, give them gentle guidance, let them take the lead, be patient and watch them as they explore their way around the kitchen.  

Make it fun!

Be silly, role-play and just have fun. These are skills you want your kids to have for a lifetime and associating it with great memories will only help grow these skills. Tell the kids they are the chefs and you’re the sous chef. We sometimes pretend we work at a restaurant, and the kids love calling out orders and being the waiters;)

Let them use their hands and make a little mess. Let them get creative, make different shapes with their food and let them try different food combinations.

It doesn’t have to be perfect

The cucumbers probably won’t be cut perfectly, and a third of the muffin mixture might be on the countertop instead of the bowl. Your pizza might even look like a continent … hey, there’s another teachable moment;) It’s always a bit of an internal struggle to stop yourself from just getting in there and “showing them” the right way, but it’s hugely important, because doing so may leave them feeling disinterested, or even worse, discouraged. For the times that they get frustrated, I simply remind them that I’ve been doing this for a long time, and reinforce the invaluable lesson that the best way to get better at just about anything is through focus and practice …give them time and remind them that they’ll get there and maybe even teach you a thing or two along the way ;)

Also, many people think you need kitchen gadgets that are “kids sized”. You don’t. They will outgrow those anyways. And if your kids are like mine, they want the “real deal” they want to use what you’re using. This is also a great way for them to use their problem solving, using kitchen tools in different ways. Large bowls to collect food scraps and another for garbage. Using the tops of glasses to cut out rounds shapes and using straws to de-stem strawberries.

Working with a picky eater 

Even if your child is a super picky eater, it’s perhaps even more valuable getting them chopping and prepping in the kitchen. There are certain things my son won’t eat, but he’s ok helping prepare them and he’s actually more likely to try those foods again after he’s helped prepare them.  

Give them a list of recipes/menu items to choose from, and ask them to choose which one they’d like. This will helps them to feel important and involved and helps boost their excitement to help the next day. At the grocery store, we also let them pick out and choose the fresh produce that will go into the recipe the next day. Make sure there is at least one thing in the meal they like and encourage them to try something new. The idea is to expose their little taste buds to new flavours a little bit at a time.

Use time in the kitchen as a time to teach!

Just don’t tell your kids that ;) There are so many opportunities to teach your kids about different subject while you and your littles are cooking together. Safety, math, cleanliness and nutrition are the first that come to everyone’s mind. But you can also talk about geography as well as different regions and cultures (our kids now want to go to Thailand and Italy just to eat the food!) We’ve also learned spelling, science, problem solving, and gratitude while we’re chopping and stirring.

So get in the kitchen with your kids and let them explore the beauty of food. Eat, play, love, and have fun building happy memories and future foodies ;) While it might get messy, it definitely doesn’t have to be complicated and there’s no better way to promote a healthy love of food then in your own home!

xoxo

Zehra