Kids in the Kitchen: 5 ways to Introduce Children to Cooking

Posted by | Posted in Expert Tips, Parents, Pediatrics, Physician Services | Posted on 03-26-2013

mother and son cooking togetherEating out seems like the easiest choice for a family meal after a busy day at work, but getting your kids to help in the kitchen is a great way to make it seem like less work, said Virginia Dolan, MD, a pediatrician with Koke Mill Medical Associates, part of Memorial Physician Services.

But how do you get them involved?

Though popping a meal in the microwave might seem like the easiest option, it’s not always the best one, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Pre-prepared, microwavable or heat-and-serve entrees are often higher in sodium, fat and calories than freshly prepared meals.

Here are some tips from the academy:

Allow your children to pick a recipe. Make a list of the ingredients and check off the ones you already have. Shop together for the rest.

Make the rules clear. If you do not want your kids to touch the stove or knives, tell them so. When they’re old enough, allow them to use the stove and sharp objects with your close supervision.

Expect mistakes. The experience of cooking together is more important than the finished recipe. Just ignore little spills or the pepper that misses the bowl.

Give your kids appropriate tasks for their age and level of development. The following may be appropriate for the youngest children:

  •  Tear lettuce.
  •  Rinse fruits, vegetables and canned beans that have been placed in a colander.
  • Add ingredients to a bowl.
  •  Stir ingredients.
  •  Beat eggs.

Remember that kids have short attention spans. Keep them busy with vegetables to wash or pots to stir. Even setting the table and putting things in the trash count.

Working with children in the kitchen is a great way to get them to try new foods, Dr. Dolan said during a recent interview with Bob Murray on WTAX radio station.

Cooking with your children at home also saves money, builds your child’s team-working skills, and helps everyone better manage their weight, Dr. Dolan said.

Want to learn more? Dr. Dolan is one of the teachers of “Just Cook: Quick Healthful Meals for Families.” The hands-on cooking class will be offered from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, in the Food Lab at Lincoln Land Community College’s Workforce Careers Center. Charlyn Fargo, RD, an adjunct instructor at Lincoln Land Community College, and Kim Bourne, RD, director of Food and Nutrition Services at Memorial Medical Center, are also leading the class. The cost is $29 per child with an accompanying parent or grandparent. To enroll in the class, call (217) 786-2292.

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