Cooking with your kids: Recipes and tips to make it fun
As a kid, there was nothing worse than sitting at the dinner table and poking around with food, waiting for the dog to pass by and “accidentally” eating those boring foods so you could hang out. Most of you who’ve eaten foods you don’t like can attest to this and it can be a memory forever ingrained in your brain.
Even so, the food must be very enjoyable. Some of the best food memories are often found around the dinner table when cooking at home. The touch and smell of certain foods carry a certain sense of nostalgia, whether it’s grandma’s meatballs or your great aunt’s sugar cookies. That’s why, as a parent, you should make cooking with your children a priority. We’ll give you some suggestions on how to teach your child to cook, safety tips to consider, and simple recipes your child will find enjoyable.
Cooking with your children should be a fun activity. Think of it as an equal partnership. Above all, make it fun. Have your child lick the spoon or knead the dough with his fingers. Kids can lose interest and disconnect if it’s not enjoyable for them.
You can get your kids involved in cooking earlier than you think. They don’t have to be large enough to use a kitchen knife to make an impact. Allow your little one to help stir the bowl or pour the macaroons into the pan. Sometimes it can be as simple as pressing the start button on a blender or food processor. Let them marvel as the blades rip through your ripe tomatoes and basil, turning a few simple ingredients into an easy-to-make pasta sauce of the week.
As they become more comfortable, you can introduce them to individual tasks. Making pancakes in the morning? Let them measure the milk in the liquid measuring cup and the powder in the dry measuring cup to help you whip up the dough quickly.
You can even involve your child in more complex dishes. If you prefer fresh pasta to the canned version, make the dough first and have your child roll it up. The same goes for homemade cookies. Buy them a small rolling pin to help you with this. You can double its benefits on Saturday mornings by having the kids roll the cookie dough with you.
Finally, embrace the mess. You don’t take your kids to the park and expect them to stay clean, right? Of course not. Children are children are part of childhood. They run around barefoot, pick up dirt and play in the sandbox. The cooking should not be different.
Throw in an apron if you want to be safe, but give the kids the freedom to make mistakes or create a tornado as they move. Accidentally spilled dough on the floor and counter while baking? It’s good now. The cleaning part can wait. When you’re done, ask them to help you clean up to emphasize the importance of cleaning up yourself.
The importance of food education
There’s more to it than hot dogs, burgers, grilled cheeses, and fries. The tastier they are, the better, it helps to expand your child’s list and introduce them to different foods and recipes. Why? Children are more likely to eat nutritious foods if they are involved in preparing them.
Expose them to bright, brightly colored foods. Kids love crayons and markers for a reason. Colorful fruits and vegetables aren’t just for looks. They also serve a purpose. Here’s a quick look at what each color represents:
Red: Contains the carotenoid lycopene, which may help prevent prostate cancer, heart disease, and lung disease.
Orange/Yellow: Contains beta cryptothanxin, which helps with cell communication and may reduce the risk of heart disease
Green: Contains sulforaphane, isocyanate and indoles, which help prevent cancer.
Blue/Purple: Contains anthocyanin antioxidants, which can delay your cell aging.
– White/brown: Contains allicin and antioxidants like quercetin and kaempferol. Allicin may protect against tumors.
Food education starts at the grocery store. Take your child to the store with you to help choose items. Let your child touch and feel the vegetables with their hands and see what the different proteins on the shelf look like.
Consider visiting a farmers market – preferably an actual farm – where your kids can see exactly what soil the fruits and vegetables on their plate come from.
Connecting with these foods in their organic state can give your child perspective. Alternatively, you can use the farmers market as an educational tool. Ask the farmer to explain to the children how to grow different types of plants so that the children can learn about what they eat.
Next time you go to the grocery store and need eggs, explain what it means to be barn-free, free-range, and organic. Children should have some basic concepts of how food is produced.
As you cook, taste and talk to your kids about what they’re going through. This is a perfect opportunity to introduce them to textures and flavors. Explain to your child how acids help balance fatty proteins and how the tiniest bit of salt can help create natural sweetness in foods.
Safe cooking tips for kids
There are some simple precautions you can take to ensure your kids stay out of harm’s way in the kitchen.
If you are cooking on the stovetop with pots and pans, make sure the handles are facing inward. In fact, place heavy pots towards the back of the stove to be safe.
Show your child how to use a knife properly. Always stay away from you, not towards your body. It is important to create a solid foundation when you use the knife. If you have round or slippery food, teach your child how to cut it in half so that they rest firmly on the cutting board. Get your own supplies ready to help get your child off to a good start. For example, give them an apple and let them finish by slicing it into bite-sized cubes or pieces.
For children 3 years and older, you can buy a set of plastic children’s knives. Of course, there are limitations to using plastic, so start with soft foods that aren’t difficult to cut. You can use the plastic to cut a ripe tomato, banana or a peeled pineapple. A butter knife will do.
As they get older and more comfortable with a plastic or butter knife, introduce them to a plastic lettuce cutter with a serrated edge. Then switch to using a paring knife before they get used to the real thing.
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