By Kate Young, RHN
Nutrition Consultant at Kelowna Choices Markets
Spending time in the kitchen can be stressful for some families, especially as younger children seem to eat almost non-stop! One way to make cooking more enjoyable is to involve the whole family! Things take less time with more hands on deck, kids are shown that they are valuable and capable, and it allows you to spend quality time with your loved ones. Plus, you get to create something nourishing and delicious!
Here are 5 tips to involve your kids in the kitchen:
Let them choose meals or ingredients- This is very helpful for keeping the whole family happy! When everyone gets to have their say and input, they feel more empowered. This can also help mitigate push-back from kiddos, especially the younger ones who are trying to find their place and personal power in the family structure. Maybe each family member gets to choose dinner on a specific day each week, or your 3-year-old gets to choose whether you use a red or yellow pepper in the stir-fry that night. Keep it simple and age appropriate!
Ensure age-appropriate tasks – While many hands make light work and everyone is capable of helping with meal prep in some way, tasks need to be tailored for kids based on their age. Older children/teens can help with chopping veggies, using appliances, using the stove, while younger kids might be put in charge of washing veggies, stirring ingredients, drizzling sauces or dressing, or shaking herbs onto a dish. For example, my young daughter gets to pour all pre-measured ingredients into bowls or the blender when we bake!
Appoint a ‘Chef in Charge’– Appoint one family member as “head chef” and the other family members as the helpers. When given the trust and freedom to be in charge, children will soon take enormous pride in what they make. Additionally, pickier eaters will become more open to the idea of eating what others cook! Depending on your family and your children’s dispositions and ages, this model can be used for an entire day ‘in charge’ or just one meal.
Make it interesting - Help foster an enjoyment and amazement of food in your kids by keeping tasks interesting. As you go, tell them where the vegetables or fruit came from or how they are grown, make fun shapes with their food, tell them what nutrients are found in which foods and why we eat them, and let them sample their progress as you go, Smaller children LOVE instant gratification.
Focus on a balanced day or week- Kiddos can be tough to get nutrition into. Some days, all they want are muffins, while other days they’re happy with all the veggies! Try to follow their flow as much as possible while still maintaining control over the quality of the options available. It is much less stressful for a parent to approach healthy eating by looking at nutrient content in an entire day or week instead of trying to balance every single meal.
Involving the whole family in the process of making food encourages an appreciation for the effort required to create an amazing meal and fosters an inclusive and capable family atmosphere.
Keep it simple and choose what’s right for your family. Enjoy!
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