Young children love to get involved in making meals. They are always anxious to help stir the pots and are usually happy to hand you ingredients that are needed. Letting your children join you in the kitchen allows you to help instill a love for cooking while also teaching your little one about the importance of good nutrition. It’s the ideal opportunity to teach them how a balanced meal is prepared. Moms and Dads can utilize time in the kitchen to teach their preschool child, suggest Dr. Mary Zurn, vice president of education for Primrose Schools.
Dr. Mary Zurn says kitchen time can be a great way for families to regain some lost, but
valuable, family time as well. “Children can develop a sense of responsibility by sharing in daily tasks,” said Dr. Zurn. Spending time with your child may be hard to come by with the hustle and bustle of a busy schedule. Cooking and spending time in the kitchen is a great way to not only gain extra family time, but to have the opportunity to teach your child valuable life skills.
Here are some tips to help you keep your child safe when they are helping you with family meals or special treats.
Keep everything age appropriate and keep your child’s physical limitations in mind. Most
children can roll dough and allowing them to help measure ingredients can also be an
opportunity for math lessons. They can tear lettuce, sprinkle little extras on sweets and add parmesan cheese to goodies. Older kids can handle grating cheese and may even be able to keep the food stirred in the pot.
Lower Expectations and Patience
While it’s true that most children can roll dough, don’t expect the dough to be perfectly flat. Accept that the dough will be a little uneven, and the food won’t taste any worse for it.
Encourage them to keep working at it and show them the little tricks that you use without
thinking about it. Remember to be patient, and don’t expect perfection.
It’s important to establish basic kitchen rules early on. If you have several children, a good idea is to have them take turns coming in and helping you. They should also establish the habit now of always washing their hands before they start helping you cook. Constantly discuss safe cooking techniques such as keeping pot handles turned in on the stove.
Build the Skills
Work with your child regularly to help them build up the skills they will need for cooking. Once they know how to knead the dough, let them work on rolling it and then adding it to the pan. As a child learns how to pour the ingredients, let her start measuring them out. Build reading skills by having your child read the recipes and let her assemble the ingredients for the meal. Constantly discuss how the meal that is being assembled is balanced and healthy so your child can understand the importance of healthy eating.
Discuss the Food Pyramid
As you are preparing the meal, discuss the ingredients that are going in and how they are
important for the body. Talk about how the protein provided by meat will help their muscles grow and discuss the important benefits derived from different vegetables. Point out all the colors that are being provided by the vegetables and talk about the importance of having a rainbow of colors on the plate for good health. Even if you are making sweet snacks you can still discuss how sweets can be balanced in by consuming them in small portions.
Make it Fun
It’s important that you and your child have fun with these exercises. Children will learn better through enjoyable activities and should be encouraged to always keep trying. Compliment the effort and find positive things to point out in the meal. Making it fun will help your child remember the lessons you are imparting and he will also look forward to cooking with you again.
Submitted by Dan Gilbert on behalf of Primrose Schools. For over 25 years, they have helped individuals achieve higher levels of success by providing them with an AdvancED® accredited, early child care services and education. Through an accelerated Balanced Learning® curriculum, Primrose Schools students are exposed to a widely diverse range of subject matter giving them a much greater opportunity to develop mentally, physically and socially. Dan has written a number of articles on topics varying from bilingual learning to teaching the importance of volunteering.