There is great value in having children in the kitchen as we prepare meals and baked goods. It can lead to a bigger mess at times and some recipes may take a little longer but the benefits for our children are priceless! The feeling of autonomy and the opportunity to contribute are wonderful for the child’s development and self-esteem and can also reduce picky eating behaviors around food. If you are interested in having your children help you but aren’t sure where to start, here are a few ideas and tips to make the process a little smoother.
Choose age appropriate options.
Here are a few ideas that will need appropriate supervision based on age and can be offered with more independence as the child gets older and as their experience grows. You know your child best and can determine what will be suitable for them.
- Peel and mash bananas for banana muffins or banana bread
- Pour wet and dry ingredients into a recipe
- Stir ingredients
- Pour ingredients into a blender for a smoothie
- Tear salad greens
- Sprinkle chia seeds and hemp hearts onto yogurt, toast, salad, and more
- Add pre-chopped ingredients into salad bowl
- Pull the ends of green beans
- Husk corn
- Rinse vegetables and fruit
- Place pieces of potato, sweet potato, or chopped vegetable into a baking pan.
- Help put some groceries away
- Set up a veggie tray for afternoon snack by spooning out a hummus and then placing pre-cut vegetables around it
- Assemble a wrap or sandwich for lunch
- As a child gets older they can cut fruit with a dull knife, peel oranges and bananas with less help, pack their own snacks and lunch, and do all the above activities with more proficiency. Before you know it, your child will be making you breakfast on the weekends
If baking, try measuring ingredients ahead of time.
If you have multiple children helping you and/or if your children are young the chaos can escalate quickly. One strategy to help with this is to measure out your ingredients ahead of time and then you can be sure you have the measurements accurate and you can focus 100% on your children while making the recipe.
Use it as a learning opportunity.
Children learn best through experience. We can teach toddlers about letters, numbers, colors, textures, and following ordered instructions while in the kitchen. We can teach older children about fractions while measuring and multiplication if doubling a recipe. We can also teach them about time by watching the clock instead of setting a timer and over time they can learn to read common ingredients by practicing their reading skills with recipe books.
Allow for test tasting.
It can take over 20 exposures to a food for a child to know if they truly like it. Seeing a food, touching it, and tasting a small bite are significant exposures. Sometimes helping in the kitchen creates a less intimidating food trial than at the table so as long as no raw eggs or other unsafe food is involved, let your child test away!
Make it routine.
One of the best tips I have for you is this one…get your children into the kitchen every chance you get. Over time you will find that as their comfort level goes up, your stress level goes down and over time the chaos fades and all that is left is amazing memories and meals!
Noelle is a mom of 6 year old twin boys and a 3 year old son. She is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for nutrition, fitness, and all things related to motherhood. Almost three years ago Noelle started her Instagram feed to give moms ideas of ways to make healthy choices for themselves and their little ones. Now in addition to sharing delicious and healthy recipes she talks about aspects of motherhood. From the early days of breastfeeding to grocery shopping with toddlers to making school lunches and everything in between! motherhoodandmeals.com
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