This year Nutrition Month is all about unlocking the potential of food: to fuel, discover, heal, prevent, and bring us together. Dietitians love food – it’s a big part of why we do the work we do. For many of us, our love for food began in childhood. This post highlights some tips for getting the children in your life involved with cooking.
I was fortunate to grow up in a home with two cooks. My dad was a cook for a living and my mom has a talent for whipping up a delicious meal from an apparent ‘empty cupboard’. I have great memories of helping with the holiday baking and watching my dad make bread as a child. There was also the obligatory peeling of carrots and washing up after supper – less fun, but an important part of learning about cooking.
Cooking with children helps expose them to new flavours and promotes eating nutritious foods like fruits and vegetables. Improved food skills, such as cooking and shopping, can lead to healthy eating overall. Cooking is also a great way to tie in learning that children are doing at school, such as math, spelling, reading, media literacy, science, social studies, and health.
Here Are Five Fun Ways to Get Children Involved with Cooking
Pick a New Recipe and Shop Together. Children love to be included. If they are part of the plan from the beginning, they will learn more about what is involved in preparing a meal. Check with your local grocery store to see if they offer grocery tours you can do together. It also helps if they choose and prepare something that they love to eat.
Incorporate Learning. Have children practice reading a recipe out loud or pick a topic for them to research while waiting for something to bake, like why some recipes use baking soda and others use baking powder.
Make it Fun! Imaginative play helps children get involved with cooking. When my niece was younger, we used to play “cooking show” when she came to visit. We would narrate and demonstrate our cooking to a pretend audience (or my husband). It was a great way for her to practice public speaking skills and learn more about cooking – explaining the steps helped to solidify her knowledge. Other ideas include having a theme night once a week or playing ‘restaurant’.
Be a Good Role Model. If you’re excited, they will be too. Consider trying a new food together and describing how the food looks, tastes, and feels. If you are adventurous it might inspire them to be open to new foods as well. And don’t worry if you don’t like the new food – that’s part of the experience too.
Have Kids Play Chef. Children of all ages can be involved in various stages of cooking. Toddlers can help find ingredients. Younger children can tear lettuce or use scissors to cut fresh herbs. School age children can measure ingredients and cut soft foods, like bananas, with a butter knife. As they get older, children can take on more of the actual cooking and teenagers or young adults take over a night of cooking once a week.
You can find more ideas about cooking with children here.
This post was adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month campaign materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at www.NutritionMonth2019.ca
What do you do to get the children in your life involved with cooking?