How to cook with your kids - and have fun!
You can get your kids creating great food - not havoc - in the kitchen with these easy tips! From chopping to mixing and creating new recipes, you can involve them and make cooking an enjoyable shared activity.
The best way to wean kids off junk food and onto foods that are healthy, wholesome and varied is to encourage them to cook with you, so that they build their own interest in what goes into their bodies. We asked Café Des Enfants founder and author of How to Get Your Kids to Eat Healthily in 14 Days or Less, Emily Gordon, for her thoughts on the best and least stressful ways to get your kids cooking!
Stirring and measuring
Discuss what and how much you are adding. This helps them learn what ingredients go into different things and it's also good maths homework!
Make sure that kids actually touch the dough, as well as help mix it, weigh and measure ingredients. They need to feel the texture, get their hands sticky or floury or smelly, before they can really fall in love with food.
Make some simpler dishes with fewer ingredients, such as an omelette, stir-fry or slice, so that your kids can be involved at every stage and not lose interest.
Get the kids to help you cook main dishes and not just the treats. Make sure that they get a chance to cook with as many different foods as possible.
If you've never made something, don't be afraid to try. Let your kids know that they don't have to be perfect cooks and that we all learn by making mistakes.
Tell them exactly what to do. Down to the last detail. Then just let them get on and do it.
Keeping yourself calm is very important in the kitchen as the kids can sense it if you're in a hurry or anxious.
- Make sure that you are in a good mood. If you're feeling impatient, none of you will have fun.
- Enjoy the mess! Although you might be itching to clear away as you go, you're going to have to learn to relax around mess.
- Relax your expectations of how the recipe will turn out. That way, you won't be disappointed if it is full of eggshells or falls on the floor!
Safety is key when it comes to your little ones.
- Get your kids to wear aprons to protect their clothes. Aprons are really useful for wiping their hands on too.
- Getting your kids at the right height is crucial. Prop them up on a stable stool or chair, which will get them at work top height.
Mastering cooking skills at the right age
Under 3 years
- Scrub, dip, tear, break, and snap (for example, snapping the ends off green beans).
- Shake, spread, and cut with a cookie or biscuit cutter.
- Peel (some items), roll, juice, and mash.
- Remove husks from corn.
- Wash vegetables in a colander.
- Measure and pour some ingredients.
- Hand mix.
- Use food processor (just pressing the on and off button can be a simple yet effective way of involving kids in cooking).
4 to 10 years
- Chopping mushrooms using a blunt knife.
- Cracking and separating eggs.
- Reading some recipes by themselves.
- Inventing their own easy-to-make recipes.
- Stirring food over the stove (with adult supervision if needed).
- Operating a can opener or food processor with safety features.
- Grating cheese.
- Cutting vegetables, fruits, etc. (using a plastic knife or dinner knife).
Over 10 years
Do just about anything you can do, although sharp knives and hot ovens and stovetops should be carefully monitored.
- Be sure to remind your children of the safety risks of a kitchen as often as you need to, but as calmly as possible. Children should respect the kitchen, but not fear it.
- Always supervise children when they are using a hot oven or a steaming pot, and make sure they have mitts and potholders that are sized correctly for little hands.
- Don't let anyone taste anything that has raw meat or eggs in it. There is too much risk of salmonella, E-coli, or other food safety issues.
- Don't let your children use your sharpest knives until they have significant experience using paring or serrated knives.
Find more Healthy Eating articles:
- How to cook with your kids and have fun
- Cook the family friendly way
- The facts about good and bad oils
- Get the most out of your exercise
- Diet friendly frozen desserts
- Bottled water vs tap water
- Food shopping for weight loss
- Manage family snack attacks
- Easy meal ideas when you don't want to cook
- 52 weeks of health and happiness
- 4 budge foods worth cooking from scratch
- Healthy smoothie ideas
- Add flavour (not fat) to your meals
This article was originally written for Kidspot.com.au in conjunction with Weight Watchers as part of their Positively Life Changing initiative.