Cooking With Kids: How to Get Kids Into the Kitchen
Teaching kids to make tasty and nutritious food from an early age helps to set them up for a long and healthy life. Getting your kids into the kitchen isn’t easy though, especially when you have to fight against video games, and smartphones to get your kids’ attention.
The trick is to make something that seems desperately boring, look like a lot of fun.
Harness Childhood Curiosity
This is where you can use the power of natural childhood curiosity. Together, take a trip to the grocery store and pick out the weirdest, fun looking vegetables and fruits. Work with your kids to design a meal around the foods they’ve picked, and use the opportunity to teach your kids about the vitamins and minerals in those foods, and how they help them grow. By learning to associate healthy food choices with having enough energy to do their favourite things, and grow up big and strong, kids are more likely to end up as adults with healthy habits.
Combine cooking with craft-time by making potato stamps (don’t eat the potatoes after!), using beet juice as a natural paint or dye, or simply by painting a picture of the inside of a tomato or pomegranate. You can also put a range of fruits and vegetables into a covered box with a hole for your hand and ask your kids to take turns working out what each one is, simply by feel and touch.
Challenge Your Kids – Junior Masterchef-Style
Once your kids are a little older, let them loose with your cookbooks and challenge them! Encourage them to come up with new and improved names for the recipes, or to switch out ingredients for things they think are healthier or tastier. For really adventurous kids, create your own version of Masterchef by giving them some basic ingredients and asking them what they’d make. Then put on your apron, and help them make it!
Give Up (some!) Control
To get younger kids more engaged with the process of choosing healthy foods, have them help you make their lunches for school. Present your kids with a range of healthy options and have them pack their own lunchbox – they might surprise you! This can mean giving them a range of healthy dips, a choice of vegetable crudités, and different protein options for sandwiches such as smoked tofu, houmous, or black bean burger crumbles. By around grade 5 kids are old enough to be taking full responsibility for what they pack into their lunchbox, but make sure you’re on hand to answer any questions about balance and nutrition.
Take the Pressure Off for Picky Eaters
Giving kids a sense of control can also be great for picky eaters. When kids feel like they have choices, they’re more likely to try new and different foods.You might find that by simply presenting a novel food as an option time and again, instead of repeatedly pressuring a child to try something, they may choose to give it a go one day on their own.
Give the Gift of Food
Kids are also more likely to try something they helped prepare, and more likely to value that food if it took a little while to make. This can work really well if you’re cooking as a family or making food-based gifts for a special occasion. Try inviting your child to help make grandma’s favourite food, or something none of you have tried before, and return the favour by helping them to make their favourite food another time. This gives kids the chance to see you having fun with food while being adventurous and generous.
And, finally, remember that if you want your kids to learn how to make healthy food, you have to take things slow and be prepared for some hilarious disasters and bizarre meals along the way!