Appetite for Adventure is a family business and as parents we’re always looking for ways of involving our children in the kitchen at home to help them understand not only our love of good food but we want to help them gain important skills and knowledge and make them aware of their food choices not only now but as they grow older too.
There are so many reasons to have your children involved in the kitchen, here’s just a few we could think of…
- Learn decision making and planning, responsibility and involvement
- Develop imagination and creativity
- Improve maths skills and self confidence
- Enhance fine-motor coordination
- Develop nutritional knowledge and learn basic cooking techniques
- Cognitive, emotional and even physical development
And of course above all these life skills it’s an opportunity for us to bond with our children over a shared love whilst we’re reinforcing that cooking and eating healthy food is fun.
Here are our tips on how to get kids involved in the kitchen and why it’s so important.
TIP 1: Set your expectations
It’s important as a parent to appreciate children of different ages are going to be able to participate in different ways. Set your own expectations – don’t set yourself up for becoming anxious when something gets spilt, over-whisked or burnt.
Setting both you and them up for success will help keep it fun.
TIP 2: Plan it out
Many of your family members may think that food just magically appears on the table! Why not get your kids involved with planning what you’re going to cook, even doing the shopping list together. You might find yourself spending a good deal of time explaining why certain things make the shopping list and others are excluded due to budgetary, nutritional reasons etc… but perhaps by letting each child pick a meal each week and getting them involved in the whole process will be more satisfying to them.
We’d recommend using either/or options like “Would you prefer peas or green beans?” as the open ended question “What do you want for dinner?” can leave you with a lot of blank faces – children never seem to have cravings in the same way adults do.
TIP 3: Get nutritious
It’s more important than ever to teach children proper nutrition, helping them make healthy eating choices for themselves – you are very much in control of your own child’s health when it comes to food, take that responsibility seriously.
You’ve got the opportunity to teach your children about appropriate serving sizes, prove that healthy food can be yummy and why some foods are better for you than others.
TIP 4: Go shopping together
The thought of taking our kids food shopping might send many of us into a complete tailspin (why have they always drifted 50 yards away with the trolley whilst you choose between cuts of meat at the counter?!) but we reckon these tips will help quell your fears:
- Use the shopping list to set expectation, if it’s not on the list it’s not coming home with you
- Or, perhaps let each of them choose one thing that isn’t on the list?
- Play I spy! Keep up a constant dialogue about the different foods they can see around them
- Let them help you find the items and let them use their senses to see, smell and touch them
- Talk about the different fruits, vegetables and other ingredients so they can understand where in the world they come from
TIP 5: Health and Safety
Ok, so you’ve got your ingredients now to prepare! Many adults worry about children in the kitchen – knives, hot ovens, etc… but with careful preparation and under your guidance you should have no problems.
Let them know where you want them to work in the kitchen. If you can’t let younger children use sharp knives or electrical appliances make sure you give them alternatives – spoons, spatulas or whisks etc… Slowly as your children get older you can give them 1-on-1 instruction on how to correctly and safely use knives, electrical appliances or taking food from the oven etc…
Once you’ve set out the rules of your kitchen make sure everyone washes their hands and ties back their hair etc… (It’s important you do this yourself to set a good example, and watch all your own bad habits for licking spoons, dipping fingers, leaving knives lying around etc…)
TIP 6: Make it fun
- Reading instructions or ingredient labels can improve reading and vocabulary
- Young children can learn colours and shapes
- Maths skills can be improved by counting and weighing ingredients
- Setting the timer helps children to understand time periods
- Fine motor skills are constantly being improved by letting them pour ingredients, weighing and measuring etc..
TIP 7: Be creative!
Have fun with your children, get matching aprons, pretend you’re hosting a cooking show and laugh at your mistakes! Kids need to understand it is ok to make mistakes and the all-important skill of adapting a recipe when things begin to go awry!
Ask the kids – let them use their imagination and be creative. As infants we have no issue eating peas with pineapple, cheese toasties with jam or bananas with ketchup and it’s only as we get older we start to develop society’s expectations of what foods go together.
Letting your children make imaginative choices could herald a new pizza topping the family loves or new ice-cream flavours that really make your senses pop. Professionals get paid thousands of pounds to develop new food trends all the time right?
TIP 8: Get cooking!
How can you get the kids involved in the actual cooking process and make it fun?
- Snap! Let them snap green beans or break the flowerets from broccoli or cauliflower
- Pop! Pop out peas from their pod
- Tear! Let them tear up the lettuce for a salad or bread for breadcrumbs
- Measure! Let them measure out ingredients
- Peel! Older children can peel and slice bananas, carrots, cucumber, potatoes etc…
- Stir! Even the youngest of children likes to take a turn stirring
- Spice! Let them add the ‘special ingredient’ to your mix
- Mash! And if all fails break out the masher for a bit of monster mash!
- Lick! (and only when you’re done) not a child in the land will be uncheered by licking a spoon
TIP 9: Clearing up
TIP 10: Eat together
There is nothing more important than time with your family. So now you’ve been cooking in the kitchen together, continue that with plating up together and eating together – studies show that families who eat together are healthier and happier.
Take the time to sit together and ask about your dish, how they helped make it and their pride in telling you what bits they did and most importantly encourage them – make them feel proud.
Food is not just about nourishing the body but nourishing our souls. Have your kids spend more time with you in the kitchen and they will develop skills and make precious memories that will last a lifetime.
Each month Appetite for Adventure share recipes you can make with your children in our Kids Zone – look out for our next one ‘my first loaf’.