Shaping Little Chefs in the Kitchen

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Cooking can be fun for all ages!Let's face it, kids are curious in the kitchen. I have permanent company in my kitchen with my two young ones (ages 5 ½ and almost 7). Cooking is a great way to introduce children to a whole new world. Plus, in these economically-challenging times, it doesn't hurt to get your kids helping out in the kitchen to create more inexpensive, healthful meals.

Encourage Kids' Culinary Creativity

  • Allow your kids to watch you while you work. To make it easier for them to see, pull a stool or chair up to the counter.
  • Give them their own drawer or cabinet that they can use to store play bowls, mixing spoons, spatulas, etc.
  • Let them assemble their own sandwiches, wraps, or pita pockets.
  • When you cook, make some of the foods into fun shapes. Let your kids help you. Heart pancakes, smiley-faced pizzas, Christmas tree cookies, and pinwheel peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are all great places to start.

Beyond "Just Cooking"

Allowing little hands to help out in the kitchen is about more than just cooking. It's about developing other skill sets in a fun, non-threatening fashion.

The first thing is that cooking should be fun for kids – so keep it simple. Do not let "rules" to get in they way of enjoying cooking time with your kids. Yes, a cooking task will probably take longer and be messier when you involve your kids, but that's not a bad thing. Remember, little things are experiments waiting to happen.

Think about showing your kids the way liquids freeze, how raw eggs become hard-boiled, or the way cheese melts on bread. These are new and interesting transitions in the form, function, and flavor of foods!

Simple Starter Tasks for Tots:

  • Mixing batter, sauces, or soups.
  • Measuring ingredients (liquid or dry).
  • Have kids add the finishing touches to food. They can do things like...
    • Top yogurt or hot cereal with cinnamon.
    • Add a pinch of salt to steamed vegetables or pasta cooking water.
    • Arrange slices of banana over a bowl of cereal.
    • Toss a handful of beans or peas into pasta.
    • Sprinkle cheese, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, olives, etc onto pizza dough.

By Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, LDN, author of The Essential Guide to Healthy Healing Foods

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