Children love to be involved in activities with adults, so why not let them join in preparing family meals? Learning to cook is a valuable experience that can introduce nutrition and healthy eating habits early on; not to mention helping to create memories with loved ones. Whether you’re a parent, caregiver, child yourself or just a kid at heart, keep in mind these age-appropriate activities the next time you find yourself needing help preparing your next family meal.
Did you know that kids influence up to 80 percent of family food spending? Even though parents do have control over what ultimately ends up in the grocery cart, allowing kids to have a say in what foods they eat may help them become healthy eaters as they grow.
Kids of any age can be involved in the shopping experience. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, some examples of kid-friendly activities in the aisle include:
¨ Creating a grocery list together.
¨ Encourage children to pick fruits and vegetables they enjoy. Talk about colors, shapes and textures to enhance the learning experience.
¨ Read food labels together. This helps kids understand nutrition concepts, and also allows them to practice reading skills.
Around the age of 3 years old, children are ready to assist in the kitchen. It is important to keep children 2 and under a safe distance from food preparation with safety gates, high chairs or playpens. This will help avoid injuries, burns and other preventable accidents.
At this age, simple motions such as tearing lettuce or washing fruits and vegetables can help ease recipe preparation for the adult. Young ones at this age can also aid in stirring ingredients or pouring liquids.
More hands-on activities may be acceptable at this age, including opening packages, greasing pans, peeling hard-boiled eggs, mashing potatoes with a fork, or snipping herbs with dull scissors.
5- and 6-year-olds
Learning to cut soft foods with a blunt knife can now be introduced. Setting the table and measuring ingredients are also helpful skills for this age.
7- and 8-year-olds
Need help locating an ingredient in the kitchen? Your child may now assist with this. If making cookies for the holidays, rolling and shaping dough or using a whisk to beat ingredients is another task to assign.
9- through 12-year-olds
More advanced kitchen tools can be used, including a vegetable peeler, sharp knife and oven (with adult supervision). Shredding cheese and vegetables can also be a fun trick to try at this age.
13- through 17-year-olds
At the start of teenage years, children are now ready to independently prepare recipes with multiple ingredients.
It is important to know that kids are more likely to try new foods if they help prepare it. Assisting in the kitchen may help build their self-esteem, as well as giving them a sense of pride when they see others enjoying what they have helped create. Most importantly, it is an opportunity to spend quality time with family that is often rare in our fast-paced culture.