I hear the advice “get your kids involved in the kitchen” thrown around a lot but often that is hard to actually apply to every day life. I do think it’s incredibly important for kids to participate in the planning and making of meals and here are some of the practical ways I do it:
- Do it on the weekends when you have more relaxed time. Don’t try to force it on the weekdays when there’s homework and chores to get done.
- Find tasks that children can easily help with: rolling doughs (savoury and sweet), tearing apart herbs and lettuces, whisking together wet ingredients, counting out a precise number of ingredients for a recipe, washing veggies, and of course, using cookie cutters to make fun shapes.
- As often as possible, create meals where kids can create bespoke dishes that they have had control over themselves. Burritos, tacos, stuffed baked potatoes, stuffed baked sweet potatoes, wraps, pasta salads, rice paper rolls, etc. Chop up all the ingredients and either put them in individual bowls or lay them on a cutting board and then let your kids choose what they want to fill their meal with. The more healthy fillings you offer, the more chance you have of a healthy outcome.
- Ask their opinion about recipes. When you serve something, ask them to try it and guess what some of the ingredients are or ask them to suggest some new ingredients that could make it better. Make it a bit of a spy mission.
“Does cauliflower come from trees? Do pickles come from bushes? Are avocados fruits or vegetables?”
- In a relaxed way, not in an obvious ‘teaching’ way, talk about where specific ingredients come from (or have them guess) when you are eating. Does cauliflower come from trees? Do pickles come from bushes? Are avocados fruits or vegetables? This just gets them thinking about the sources of the food they eat.
- When trying to figure out what to cook, we sometimes pull out a cookbook. Everyone has to close their eyes and randomly pick a page – whatever you blindly fall on is your choice. Then we look at our choices and pick one to try – whoever gets their recipe chosen is the winner.
- Watch cooking shows on TV instead of cartoons from time to time and see if anything strikes their fancy to try. Then make it all together. Get them guessing what ingredients the chef is going to be using or how they think it is going to be made and then watch together to see if they’re right.
- Overall just keep it light, encourage involvement but don’t force it, help them find the fun in helping in the kitchen.