Cooking up Fun with Kids in the Kitchen

Having kids in the kitchen provides many learning opportunities. There's a multitude of chances to exercise math skills, practice judgment and decision making, follow directions, learn to multi-task and be creative. Kids can learn important survival skills about meal planning, preparation and nutrition. And they can begin to assume some responsibility for the daily activities that support family life. Perhaps best of all, cooking activities provide a wonderful opportunity for parents and children to connect while sharing an activity with very tangible and satisfying results.

The key to introducing children to cooking and food activities  - from planning and preparation to clean up - is to involve them gradually. Take it one step at a time to avoid overwhelming them. And, most importantly, always keep safety foremost in your (and their) mind.

Planning

  • Get your whole family involved in planning the meals for the week.
  • Engage your children in determining what ingredients you'll need and preparing a shopping list.
  • Getting kids involved in meal planning, shopping and preparation helps them better understand the whole continuum. (Maybe, they'll even gain greater appreciation for the work involved once they see that meals don't just magically appear on the dinner table.)

Shopping
The trick here is to turn the chore of buying food into a learning adventure for your children.

  • Give your children "missions" at the grocery store.
  • Have them check off items on your list as you shop together.
  • If your child's old enough, let him venture off to another aisle to pick up a few non-breakable items.
  • Once you get home, let your children help unpack, sort and put away the groceries. (You might want to buy extra eggs the first few times!)

Meal Preparation

  • Allow young children to do only as much as you're sure they are capable of handling safely. Remember, small steps are the key here.
  • Start with simple tasks such as letting your child help roll dough, tear up lettuce for a salad, grate cheese, or put icing on a cake. Don't forget to let him or her help set the table and clear away plates after the meal, too.
  • As children get older and more comfortable in the kitchen, they can take on task such as cutting up fruits and vegetables, making soup, baking, etc. (Again, don't forget to make frequent and consistent mention of kitchen safety).
  • Older children often think they can take over the whole kitchen. Be sure to monitor their kitchen activities until you're fully confident in their ability to handle certain tasks competently.

© Parenthood.com, used with permission.

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