Not only is it a great time to sit down together and connect with your smaller loved ones, but involving them in the preparation of a meal can become a powerful way to positively influence your child’s relationship with food, something that is going to pay huge dividends as they leave the nest and enter the big wide world.
Today I’m going to give you a few tips on how to get your kids in the kitchen, and hopefully convince you just how important this is.
Also, the MAJOR caveat to all of these tips is that they require adult supervision at all times. Kitchens are filled with hot and sharp things, so while getting your kids in the kitchen is incredibly important, leaving them alone in there is not so great…
No Job Too Small
As with any learning activity, the key is to involve your kids in any way that you can, as learning by doing is far more powerful than observing or listening. Keep an eye out for little jobs that they can help with, even if it’s as simple as passing you ingredients or utensils, taste testing the recipe or drawing patterns in the oats. Make sure you’re narrating each step too, so they can begin to understand all of the steps that are involved in putting a meal together. If your kids are a little older, stirring, chopping, reading recipes and planning a weekly menu are all valuable life skills that they can take with them into adulthood.
Embrace the Mess
It’s going to get messy. Clean-up is probably going to suck. As a bit of a neat freak, I will admit that I didn’t cope very well the first time I got my daughter to help me make banana muffins. But if you focus instead on the skills they’re learning and the fun they’re having, that mess suddenly doesn’t seem so bad. If they’re a bit younger, sit them in their high chair in the middle of your kitchen with a bib (or, if you’re as lazy as me, just a nappy) and start getting them to mix and stir the ingredients. Also, pro tip: get a dog. Nothing beats a Labrador followed by a mop for a quick kitchen floor clean up.
As parents, what we don’t say to our kids is sometimes even more powerful than what we do say. If we’re picky, if we make sub optimal food choices most of the time, if we use negative language around our body or our food, our kids will notice. Make sure that you’re not making eating your vegetables ‘a chore’, or complaining about having to eat your greens, as this will have a huge influence on how your children view food.
Finally, a little bonus shout-out to the ‘Foost First Knife’ from foost.com.au. This awesome little utensil is safe for children two and up to use and is an excellent introduction to the trickier parts of food prep (until they get a job and can by their own Your Prep anyway…)