Why We Should Include Children in Food Preparation
Including children into ‘kitchen work’ demands a lot of time, patience, and cleaning, but these activities are very much worth the effort. The sooner you include your children in food preparation and grocery shopping, the sooner they will be ready to try and accept different foods and get used to various flavors.
How can we include children in food preparation?
Through games with groceries, children learn about them, gradually gaining the ability to see how fresh they are and to turn them into delicious dishes. This is the path to creating good dietary habits and strengthening them to choose good food for the rest of their lives. Additionally, taking part in preparing food creates a sense of pride and self-confidence in children.
For starters, it is recommended to make simple dishes, through activities suitable for the children’s age.
Children under the age of two like to play with ingredients (“shape the dough”, mix chopped vegetables or other ingredients in a bowl) and taste the food while you make it. Let them taste, for example, cleaned vegetables or fruit, or other food that you are making.
Children between the ages of three and six can wash fruits and vegetables, help with making food (pass ingredients, mix them in a bowl), clean the workspace – throw away scraps and packaging, pass small plates and utensils, shape dough and cakes with hands and molds, help serve the food or clean the kitchen table.
Children aged six to ten will enjoy making a shopping list for ingredients, reading the recipe, helping you prepare fruits and vegetables, measuring and passing ingredients when making food, mixing ingredients with an electric mixer, etc.
Children aged ten to thirteen can prepare simple dishes by following the recipe – with a little help, use graters and knives with supervision, kitchen appliances, microwave, and the stove.
If they learned about food and were involved in the making of it, as teenagers they can choose ingredients on their won and prepare healthy meals and food that they will serve to their friends.
In addition to cooking, it is very important to teach the child to maintain good hygiene in the kitchen.
Depending on the age, the child can wash or wipe the dishes, clean the workspace, etc. The kitchen needs to stay clean after making food. Safety in the kitchen is also something that you need to teach children to pay attention to.
What do we teach our children?
By involving our children in the preparation of food, children eat diverse, nutrient-rich food – vegetables, fruit, dietary food, etc. They eat less processed and fast food. They learn about ingredients and ways to make food.
They also feel proud of contributing to the family. They enjoy the family meal more because they participated in making it. They spend quality time together with their parents and feel relaxed and protected. While they cook, children are active and they do not sit in front of the TV or a computer.
Parents need to be good role models because children often want to try the food that mum and dad eat. Show your children that you eat what you give to them to eat. Munch on raw vegetables in front of them (carrot, paprika, celery, cabbage…) and make a salad from it together. While you are making food together, talk to your children about ingredients, which ones they are, and why they are good for their health.
Think up stories and recite songs about food to them. Here is a little song by me!
Sweets, munchies, and snacks, are not healthy food,
Instead, vegetables and fruits should be your daily mood.
Ripe, sweet fruit, ready for you to take
is sweeter, healthier, and better than any cake.
Vegetables are full of minerals and vitamins,
unlike sweets and breadsticks.
Instead of pastries, sandwiches, and cake,
it’s healthier to eat milk, cheese, mom’s soup, and the bread she can bake.
And industrially made sodas, are they really made from fruit?
Remember kids, water is the best drink for you!