Nov 2, 2012

Little Chefs

Many people, like myself, grew up cooking with their mothers, fathers, or grand parents. Cooking together is a way of spending quality time with your children. Although nutrition is important, cooking together is more about cultivating lifelong habits and an appreciation for real food that nourishes the body, mind and spirit.

If you would like to get closer to your little chefs, here's how to get started, gather the fun tools! For example: wooden spoons, plastic or metal mixing bowls, wire whisks, a lightweight step stool, hot pads (for older kids), plastic measuring cups and spoons for your work surface.

Welcome kids into the kitchen with their own aprons. For older kids (although perhaps not teenagers), throw in a chef’s hat if you like and even a drawer or other areas for them to store their own tools.

Use seasonal and fresh produce to make delicious dishes that are fun to cook and eat. Keep recipes simple at first. They don’t even have to involve flames. Consider fruit kebabs, muffins, dips, spreads, rolls, wraps, slaws, green smoothies and even no-bake cookies.

Invite your child to help plan meals ahead of time and shop with you at the store. Younger kids can help with planning one dish or even the fruit to serve at mealtime. Older kids can participate in collaborative planning for the whole meal. Read through the recipe together so both parties understand the process from the start and write the shopping list together.

Lay out everything you need on your work surface before you start cooking, and teach good habits by cleaning up as you go along. Wear loose clothing, roll up sleeves, tie hair back and put on aprons to keep clothing clean. Establish kitchen rules early, such as not using flames or knives when an adult is not around. And not sticking fingers into the mixer when beaters are in motion! Be sure to observe safety yourself such as turning pot handles inward, using oven mitts, and handling knives safely.

Be patient and gentle in your guidance. Kids will make a mess because they are learning skills we all take for granted. That is part of the learning process. Remember you are doing this to enjoy their company, as they will not stay children for very long. This is about making good memories rather than seeking culinary perfection.

Finally, you can empower your children by giving them age appropriate responsibilities in the kitchen. A 2 year old, for example, is more than capable of wiping up a small spill with an easily accessible towel. An early school-age child can help write the shopping list and a pre-adolescent can help with meal planning for the family.

And then you can all enjoy the fruits of your labors together!

Websites with kid-friendly recipes (that you'll love, too):

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