By Sue Honkamp
My name is Sue and I’m the founder and owner of Real Food 4 Kids. I’d love to jump-start or nurture your child’s interest in food. My #1 recommendation: involve your kids in the kitchen. Yes, it’s hectic. Yes, it’s more work…for several years. Yes, it can test your patience, even on a good day. But the benefits are real, and if you’re looking at the glass half-full, those benefits can become apparent pretty quickly. Here are five good reasons to get started:
1. Teach some lifelong lessons: Your child will have to eat, everyday, for the rest of his or her life. If you learn your way around the kitchen as a kid, you’ll take those skills with you, anywhere you go. If you learn
a. that fruits and vegetables are good for you
b. the difference between different types of flours and other grains
c. how to read an ingredient label or a recipe
d. how to measure, mix, or even roast or sauté
at an early age, your child will keep that knowledge forever…especially when you aren’t there to help.
2. Learn a little math + science without opening a textbook: Cooking = math + science. A little of this plus a little of that plus some type of mixing, heating, or cooling will yield something completely different. Think of all of the fractions, addition, or multiplication involved in reading a measuring spoon or doubling a recipe. Or, think of the chemical reaction involved when using baking soda or yeast.
3. Your child will gain independence (and share in the workload). Just imagine…
a. First, your child can pour his own cereal or milk.
b. Then, he can make his own lunch every morning before school.
c. Next, he might make some pancakes or waffles from scratch on a Saturday morning. Or make you a birthday cake from scratch!
d. He might even get dinner started, or make dinner, before you get home.
The payoff is HUGE!
4. It’s an activity in itself: Sure, your child could do a craft project, build a Lego skyscraper, play a board game or watch TV. Why not view time in the kitchen as a creative activity? Some snacks, like energy bites, don’t require an oven or stove and can be done independently.
5. The end result is edible! And guess what, if your child makes something themselves, he or she might be more likely to actually eat it! And even if he doesn’t like it, I’ll bet he learned something along the way.
So, where do you start? Here are some ideas for kids at every age:
- Infants – Keep them in the kitchen while you cook. There’s always something to watch.
- Toddlers – Give them some non-breakable bowls, measuring cups, and spoons to play with on the floor or table as you work. Yes, you’ll have a few extra things to wash, but they will have fun mimicking what you’re doing.
- Pre-school & Kindergarten – By this age, they can start to pour ingredients into a bowl, stir, get things from the pantry or fridge, wash fruits and vegetables and be a “helper”. With a bit of patience and room for error, they can even crack an egg and cut with a plastic knife.
- Elementary school – These kids can pack their own school lunches, and mix up some basic recipes like pancakes, muffins, and scrambled eggs.
- Tweens and Teens – At this age, kids can do most things in the kitchen, like make homemade mac-n-cheese, chop and roast vegetables to make soup, make you a delicious birthday cake, and even make home-made pasta. Unfortunately, they don’t typically want to clean-up!
At Real Food 4 Kids, we offer hands-on cooking classes for ages 5 and up. We do all of the things outlined here, AND eat our creations. We also host private parties, work with Girl Scouts and other groups, and teach group food education classes on topics such as: how to read ingredient labels, where fruits and vegetables are grown, and more! Check out the class offerings and more on my website: www.realfood4kids.com! I hope to see you in the kitchen!