Thinking about kids in the kitchen might bring to mind images of piles of dirty dishes, flour strewn across counters, and a general mess. But kids are capable of doing more in the kitchen than just making a mess! Getting kids involved in cooking family meals can be an important way to build healthy habits. Involving kids in cooking at home may help motivate them to try new foods. Additionally, research shows that cooking meals at home and eating them as a family might be a positive impact on children’s diets*. So, if we know cooking at home with our kids can be so beneficial, how do we make it happen?
- Start when kids are young and start with small tasks.
- A preschooler might be able to hang out in the kitchen while dinner is being prepared, rather than playing in another area. And, they could help with simple tasks like putting toppings on a pizza, stirring things, or turn pages in a recipe book.
- They could also help count things being used in recipes, like eggs as they are being cracked.
- If kids get used to the idea of being around and helping prepare meals, it may be easier to keep them involved as they get older.
Even if kids are older and have not been in the kitchen much, there are still ways to get them involved!
- Rely on things your kids already find interesting.
- For example, if kids enjoy reading you could try making food mentioned in their book. There are even books like How to Feed Your Parents and Rainbow Stew that include recipes for the meals mentioned in the books.
- Or maybe your kids are interested in television shows like Master Chef Junior, Chopped, or the Great British Baking Show. If so, they might be interested in attempting recipes from the show or trying to develop their own creative recipes.
- You might have to do a bit of research to see if there are any fun recipes in the shows, books, or other media your kids enjoy, but connecting cooking to something they already love can help get them interested!
- Include them when planning meals for the week. This might not work for younger kids without some restrictions (unless you want ice cream for every meal). But, especially for older kids, giving them some say in what goes on the menu might help them feel more excited about getting dinner on the table.
- For even older kids, you might be able to make cooking dinner a chore you assign (if that is something your family does). At first, they may need parental assistance, but as they build their cooking skills they could get to the point where they can cook a meal for the entire family on their own!
Hopefully, these helpful tips and strategies give you some ideas about how to include your family in cooking meals. Just remember that kids should only be asked to do things appropriate for their age and that most kids (especially younger kids) will need parental supervision to ensure there are no accidents!
* Rockett HR. Family dinner: more than just a meal. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107: 1498-1501.