If you’re looking for a new way to connect with your kids – or for them to eat healthier – get out some kid-sized aprons. Cooking with your kids may take a bit longer and might not have the best presentation, but you’ll spend quality time as a family, and since little ones are more likely to eat things they’ve helped prepare, everyone wins! Spending time with you in the kitchen provides kids the one-on-one attention they crave. And when they have the positive attention they need, they’re less likely to seek it out in negative ways. It’s also a great time to work on following directions, reading by using a recipe, and measuring – not to mention a fun way to learn about fractions. Cooking also gives kids a grand sense of significance, as they see how they contributed to the family by helping with the meal. It makes them feel capable and trains them on valuable skills they’ll use into adulthood. Taking time to talk about the ingredients – what they are, where they come from, why they’re important, how to prepare them – will help them understand more about the science of food and the importance of making healthy choices. Kids as young as toddlers can help in the kitchen, and teenagers can pull together a whole meal (that’s not out of a box!). Some ideas on how kids can help in the kitchen (by age):
- Toddlers: tear lettuce, pull grapes from stems, sprinkle shredded cheese and spices, stir, pass out napkins, use plastic cookie cutters.
- Preschoolers: use measuring spoons and cups, peel vegetables, set the table, wash fruits and veggies, light kneading and rolling of dough.
- Early Elementary: dice vegetables with a kid-safe knife, de-seed peppers, pour liquids, snip herbs, grate cheese (watch the fingers!), whisk, wash dishes, make sandwiches.
- Upper Elementary: chop vegetables, use a pizza cutter, scoop muffin and cookie batter, toss salads, dry dishes, and make simple recipes independently.
- Junior High and Up: generally can do all adult tasks with supervision. Focus on the math and how to cook on the stove or bake.
Remember, recipes don’t have to be complicated or sugar-loaded to get kids to help!
About the Author
Nationally recognized parenting expert Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the best selling author of The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic – A Step-by-Step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World and If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. As a “recovering yeller” and a Certified Positive Discipline Instructor, Amy is a champion of positive parenting techniques for happier families and well-behaved kids. Amy is a TODAY Show contributor and has been featured on CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Rachael Ray, Steve Harvey & others. In her most important role, she is the proud mom of two amazing young men.