Getting children involved in the kitchen is beneficial in many ways. It can be a great hands-on way to teach your child about healthy eating, as well as food and kitchen safety. Allowing kids in the kitchen to play chef can also be a creative way to introduce new foods. Participation with meal preparation can instill lifelong lessons and habits while facilitating a healthy relationship with food.
Getting Kids Interested
Children often enjoy being in the kitchen, especially when they feel they are being helpful.When grocery shopping, or looking for healthy recipes to make, teach them about healthy meals and why it is important to eat healthy. Consider meals that allowf or creativity such as a pizza topping station or salad bar with various toppings to choose from, especially lots of veggies! Encourage kids to treat he food like art, and they will learn to appreciate more than just the taste.
Have kids assist in selecting recipes for family meals. This can be a fun activity for the entire family and allows kids to get familiar with different foods and recipes.
Here are some resources to use when looking for recipes:
- pinterest.com (Nemours Children’s Health System)
Try turning recipe selections into a game by having them pick a recipe with the most color, or the dish with the most vegetables. Myplate.org provides healthy recipes in addition to information on the different food groups and how to shop on a budget.
Take children grocery shopping. This can be a great time to teach them how to read food labels, and to learn about various types of fruits and vegetables. Planning fun activities such as naming a fruit of vegetable or having a family scavenger hunt helps spark interest in learning about food.
There are many steps to the meal preparation process that can be delegated to children. See the list below for various age-appropriate tasks for children to participate in.
- Set the table
- Use measuring cups and spoons
- Tear lettuce for salad or other dishes
- Add in or stir ingredients
- Assist with packing their lunches for school
- Break broccoli
- Assist with pre- heating the oven
- Wash and tearing lettuce
- Set the kitchen timer
- Help with cleaning fruits and vegetables
- Measure and mix ingredients
- Assist with clean up
- Teach them how to cook an entire meal following recipe directions
- Chop ingredients (review safe cutting techniques)
- Select healthy recipes and participate in meal planning
- Clean up
Safe Food Handling
Don’t forget to incorporate safe food handling techniques when cooking in the kitchen. Help kids develop safe and clean habits when it comes to food preparation. Teach children these tips before cooking:
- Be sure counter tops and cooking utensils are clean
- Clear enough space to work to prevent spills or other hazards
- Tie hair back out of the face
- Wash hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds before you start cooking
- Make this fun by singing happy birthday or the ABC’s, or any other short song that takes at least 20 seconds
- Wash hands when changing tasks to help prevent cross contamination
- For older teenagers who are chopping ingredients:
- remember to keep a good grip on the knife and always cut away from the body
- be sure to eliminate distractions when using a knife
- keep the tip of the knife glued to the cutting board for more control
- Form a “C” with the fingers of the opposite hand (hand not holding the knife). Tuck the thumb under these fingers and use the knuckles as a guide while keeping fingertips touching the food, out of the way of the blade.
- Always cook with an adult
Written by: Desirae Howard, Dietetics Major, University of Delaware
Edited by: Mary-Catherine Perry, RD, LDN and Michell Fullmer, RD, LDN, CSP, CNSC, Clinical Dietitians at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children