Many children are hesitant to try new foods because they only like things that they have been exposed to before. It is very important for their nutrition to eat a well balanced diet that has food from all of the food groups, even the “yucky” vegetables. Children look to adults as role models and want to do everything their role model does. They watch every move an adult makes and they remember the things they were not allowed to help with. Don’t let helping in the kitchen be one of those things!
Children may be more inclined to try new foods if they help in the preparation of the meal. Small children may not be able to do as much as older children in the kitchen because their fine motor control is not as developed. However, smaller children still like to be included. Even if they simply help to wash vegetables, they are still getting to learn how vegetables go from being one thing to being combined with ingredients to make something completely different!
There are many other ways to help get kids involved with cooking meals. A second way to help get kids excited about new foods is to plant a garden with them. By planting a garden, children can see how a vegetable starts as a seed or small plant. They can see how the plant grows, how the vegetable grows on the plant, and they can learn when the vegetable is ready to be picked. When the children are allowed to help in the garden, they can realize that new healthy foods are not strange, icky, or any other adverse adjective that can be used to describe the word.
Ways to let kids help out in the kitchen:
1. Let the children wash the ingredients for meals.
2. For older children, allow them to use a peeler to skin vegetables such as cucumbers and potatoes.
3. Let the children stir ingredients in the pot, using caution to make sure they do not get burnt.
4. When making foods, such as homemade pizza, let the children put the sauce, cheese, and other toppings on.
5. If baking, let the children add icing or sprinkles to whatever treat they helped to make.
You might be thinking “won’t this be messy” or “will this be more time consuming?” The answer is probably yes, but as Ms. Frizzle says from the Magic School Bus, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” Even if the child decides they don’t like the meal they prepared, the important thing to remember is they tried and it was quality time together. Happy helping!
Written by Lindsey Brown