“Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”
Kids in the Kitchen
Involving kids in the kitchen is something I have always enjoyed trying even before I had kids. My niece still remembers me teaching her how to crack an egg without getting shells in the egg. I’m still working on teaching my own toddler how to crack an egg. I just don’t think he’s old enough to master the two-thumb action. Currently he smashes the egg and dumps it in the bowl. I give him a separate bowl from my main ingredients so that I can pick out the eggshells. He really loves cracking eggs, although I usually cringe as the egg explodes into the bowl and both our hands get covered in egg.
This is a picture of my son eating a cucumber after helping peel it. He's super excited that he gets to hold the whole thing and take a bite off the big cucumber.
Some days I don’t have as much patience with my toddler and don’t want to clean up the extra mess that he creates when I let him help cook. On those days I give him less messy tasks like emptying the dishwasher, or holding the mixer with me. Sometimes I'm really impatient and only let him wear an apron while he stands on the stool and watches me cook. Thankfully, he's usually happy with any of those options.
One thing I have noticed is that he likes to sneak a taste of whatever he is helping me cook. Things that that he has tried for the first time while helping in the kitchen include; cucumbers, lemon slices (his choice), olives and cookie dough. He likes to try it all. Sometimes it tastes really good (cookie dough) or sometimes he doesn’t like it (olives). Either way, involving him in the kitchen has helped him develop a good habit of trying many different foods. It makes me laugh sometimes because his taste testing is occasionally too zealous and he wants to eat a lemon, or ingredients that either don’t taste great or just plain shouldn’t be eaten raw.
Fact: Eating raw eggs, and meat can cause food poisoning
It’s never too late or too early to involve your kids in the kitchen. From something as small as setting the table for dinner, all the way to making the entire dinner, it’s important to involve children in the kitchen.
Here are some ideas for involving young children in the kitchen
- Peel vegetables
- Push the button on the blender
- Wear an apron while watching you cook
- Wear hot pads and stand a safe distance away from oven. (Just wearing cooking gear, makes them feel excited and included in the cooking process)
- Stir batter
- Flip pancakes
- Rinse vegetables and fruit
Apparently I'm the only one in this picture who looks excited to wear an apron.
While caring for my cousin’s children, her daughter asked me to peel the inside and outside of her peach before she would eat it. We had a little discussion about what each part of the peach was. I then told her that if she wanted it peeled, then she could do it herself. She didn’t want to touch it at first because of the texture but her desire to eat the peach was greater than her feeling of caution. Some kids may hold out and not eat the peach the first few times, lucky for me though, she ate the peach with the peel and the weird looking middle. Consistency is key with exposing your children to different foods. Involving your kids in the kitchen and getting them to touch and taste all different foods can help them over come their inexperience and caution around food.
Fact: It can take up to 10-15 times over 6 months of trying a new food before a child will accept it.
Be cautious of kitchen hazards like sharp tools, and hot objects. Always assess your child’s abilities before giving them more independence. Instruct them on the safe places to touch that are not hot or sharp. If you continually tell them what NOT to touch, without instructing on safe places, it can be a little intimidating for them. Best place to start involving children is with things that are not hot, sharp or can harm them. You know your child best, so get creative in ways that you can involve them in the kitchen.
Give Food Choices That You Approve
Letting your child exercise independence in food choices can seem like a crazy idea. Images of your child eating chips, cookies and chocolate milk all day may be your first thought when thinking of giving your child choices in what they eat.
As children grow they are continually building their independence. This can be awesome when they are learning to walk and frustrating when they scream “NO!” at the dinner table. Ultimately you’re preparing them for adulthood when they will choose whatever they want, whenever they want.
You can avoid a lot of power struggle over food when you offer them pre-approved choices. For example, “Do you want an apple, orange, or strawberry?” Giving choices within a food group gives you a little more control over what foods they are getting and helps them get a variety of foods. In the same way that you wouldn’t ask your child, “do you want to go to bed or watch television?” you shouldn’t ask your child, “do you want carrots or cookies?” You know before asking that they will most likely choose cookies.
This being said, they don’t get to decide every little thing that is going to be served for dinner, or you might end up eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with carrot sticks and applesauce for every meal. Again, give them approved choices, not just free reign over the kitchen. Be prepared to eat whatever they choose because as you’ll learn in my upcoming book, you’re not a short order chef and the entire family benefits from eating the same foods at meal times.
- Plan a kitchen/cooking activity with your kids
- Make a list of snacks that are healthy for your kids
- What foods do your kids struggle to like? How have you helped them start liking the food?