This post is brought to you by Nestlé Healthy Active Kids
There really isn't a lot that kids can't learn through cooking.
Art; yup .
Group work; yup.
I could go on about this all day but Julia Child said it so wonderfully that you should really just read her words on it.
For me cooking with my kids is an almost daily ritual - I'm not the type of mum who sits on the ground and plays with ponies - We bake biscuits and make smoothies, we are a kitchen family, it’s a cliché but it is the absolute heart of our home.
Because I come from a Montessori background I am really comfortable with letting my kids get hands-on with things. They have been making a mess in the kitchen since they could stand on a step stool, using knives and cracking eggs, making their own toast and clumpily spreading butter on it.
A lot of parents aren't as comfortable with their kids in the kitchen and according to a report by Nestlé Healthy Active Kids over half of Aussie kids aren’t learning to cook. So I thought I would share with you some of my tips for getting your little people cooking.
1) Get them involved in the planning.
Even a four-year-old can help meal plan. Sure you may just get a bunch of random drawings that are apparently sausages and peas but because they are involved from the start they are more likely to want to help cook the meal and hopefully eat it too. The idea that they are in control of what they eat is something you cannot introduce too early. Looking at recipe books, helping me write the shopping list and checking the cupboards is such a great learning experience for Scout. Squawk is still a bit small for this part but he seems happy enough opening and closing random drawers and saying ‘no’ at the top of his lungs with a big smile on his face. When they are older and life is a bit more hectic I Imagine this process will happen in the car on the way to various activities with the help of an iPhone and a few good recipe blogs. It is one of my favourite weekly rituals and I really hope we don't lose that over time.
2) Take them shopping.
My friends always ask me why I take the kids grocery shopping all the time. People think I’m crazy doing a full shop with a four and two year old but it’s such a great experience for them. We talk about what we buy and why, they have a chance to learn new words, practice counting, learn how to cop it on the chin when I say no to colourful cereal and behave themselves while we are checking out. It’s good for them in so many ways but most importantly it helps them feel a certain ownership over the food decisions we make and when we get into the kitchen they can easily recognise and find all the ingredients we need.
3) Assign them jobs.
Kids can cook, four year olds can safely use knives that aren't too sharp, three year olds can crack eggs and two year olds can stir things. They can. Older primary kids can read recipes and use a stove. In a Montessori classroom kids are trusted with all sorts of tools and expected to use them responsibly. And they very rarely hurt themselves. The Nestlé Healthy Active Kids report found that only five per cent of kids were helping in the kitchen on a daily basis with parents stating that they were too time poor to let them. Sometimes as a parent it feels easier to say 'no' but assigning kids jobs can actually take the pressure off you. Squawk isn't helpful yet but Scout is, she grabs me things out of the cupboard and grates stuff. I'm working towards the day that they can cook me dinner while I drink a cuppa on the couch. I really do not want to live in a world where my 14-year-old needs my help to make some pasta. Independence is so important for kids sense of self, and parents sanity.
4) Be creative.
We have so much fun in the kitchen, we make ‘face toast’ (what Scout calls it when we turn our toppings into pictures) all the time. She loves to peruse instagram for things we shoud make - her favourite hashtag is #toastart. She puts together weird flavour combo's like cheese and jam and basically just experiments. Her other obsession is making ice blocks out of different smoothie flavours. As we add in each new ingredient her gruff little voice pipes up with; is this healthy? I know her enthusiasm for healthy food will fade along with her desire to only eat 'face toast' as she get older but her love for cooking just seems to be growing. I'm just going to keep following her lead, giving her cookbooks to read, chatting about food and saying yes when she dreams up fun things for us to make together.
5) Help them understand where their food comes from.
Any sort of paddock to plate experience is so good for kids. We have chooks so my kids grab their breakfast every morning and we are also lucky enough to have cousins that live on a farm so there is always blueberry collecting and veggie picking in our world. But not everyone has these opportunities. Farmers markets and veggie patches are a great way to get your kids thinking about where their food comes from but books work just as well. Kids want to understand everything, that is why the word 'why' is so common. So just let them see where there food starts and finishes and be involved in as much of this process as possible.
Personally, when it comes to education and interests I like to follow the child. But being able to cook and make healthy food choices is an important life skill. If Squawk happens to not love cooking then I will nudge him in that direction by finding a way to get him involved. An interest in maths, science, history or geography can be encouraged in the kitchen.
Head over to Nestlé Healthy Active Kids for a wealth of resources on encouraging kids to lead healthy active lives.
What are your tips?
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