Just because you don't have 4 hours to spare to make tamales from scratch, or time to make your own pasta, doesn't mean that you can't include kids in the process. It is crucial that kids are present in the kitchen, even if all they do is rinse lettuce and tear up the leaves to make a salad. When kids feel comfortable and welcome in the kitchen, it can help them to develop confidence and healthy eating habits they will carry with them for their entire lives. Cooking is more than just eating the finished product, it's about process, experience, and community. Here are some tips and simple ways to get your kids (of all ages) involved in the kitchen!
Give them Power
Try not to present cooking as another chore or something they "have" to help you with. Take out a few cook books, with simple recipes to start, and let them plan the meals for the upcoming week. Have them help you create a grocery list and make a plan for what nights you'll make each recipe. Have them choose which meals they're most excited to help out with.
Consistency is Key!
If finding time is really difficult due to your work schedule, try to plan just one meal a week where your kiddo can join you in the kitchen and try hard to stick to it. Kids need consistency. To make it easy you could cook a family favorite that night, and just vary it slightly from week to week. Kids can still get their hands dirty without you having to do too much planning. Each week they can look forward to that day and that special meal.
2-year-olds: Rinse fruits and veggies, tear lettuce/greens, break broccoli into bite-size pieces
3-year-olds: Mix & pour ingredients, shake liquids (like salad dressing or milk) to combine them
4-year-olds: Peel things like hard-boiled eggs, mash beans, avocados, potato (cooled) using fork
5-6-year olds: Use kid-safe scissors to cut herbs like parsley and cilantro
7-10 year olds: Set the table, measure ingredients, clean up
Teens: Introduce safe knife techniques and explain the difference between slicing, and chopping. Have them start meals by lightly sauteing onions & garlic.
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