I remember my first cooking set that I received for Christmas when I was 7 or 8 years old. I viv-idly remember my friends and me putting ingredients together to create a recipe that we thought would make us famous. I took the reins of the kitchen as a teenager because I was a latch key kid; I was home by 2 p.m. My entire family was working so I learned early to have a meal pre-pared when they returned home. From my cooking experiences as a child, I learned cooking skills that stayed with me for life.
Results from the National Survey of Children’s Health indicate that just over three-fourth of chil-dren have family meals about four times a week. This tells us that family meals are not a thing of the past. This tradition presents a unique opportunity for parents and caregivers to allow children to learn to cook.
When children help with meal preparation and cooking they learn valuable life skills such as contributing to the family, making choices and problem solving. Research shows that children who help with meal preparation are more likely to eat what they prepare. This presents a good opportunity for parents to talk about healthy eating with their children. In addition, having kids in the kitchen increases their creativity and bolster their self-esteem. Children also increase their math and reading skills as they read and measure ingredients for recipes. There is no greater pleasure for a child than to prepare a food item and to see the family enjoy it.
Getting kids involved in meal preparation and cooking should begin with menu planning and grocery shopping. Have children suggest meal items and let them help in making the grocery list and shopping for the ingredients. Children can choose a vegetable of the week and find interest-ing ways to prepare it. This can go a long way in increasing vegetable intake.
As you introduce children to the kitchen and get them started with cooking, remember to assign children age appropriate tasks. Preschoolers should be able to help with chopping, mixing and setting the table.
An elementary age child can help with salads, assembling a pizza and other items for the family meal, while a teenager could prepare an entire meal. The entire family could be involved with meal planning and grocery shopping. Remember that as children prepare meals it can become messy so expect this and be patient, the rewards far outweigh the inconvenience.
Safety should always be emphasized. Hand washing at the beginning and throughout food prepa-ration can prevent your family members from becoming sick. Do not allow children to eat raw eggs and have them wait until the food is cooked before delving into it. Uncooked and raw food could be a source of bacteria. Be careful with knives as they can cause serious injuries. Always remember to provide supervision when food preparation involves the use of ovens, stoves and other kitchen appliances.
Nutrition.gov Kids in the kitchen recipes. Accessed October 9, 2015 from http:// www.nutrition.gov/life-stages/children/kids-kitchen
United States Department of Agriculture. Cooking with Kids. Accessed October 9, 2015 from https://healthymeals.nal.usda.gov/nutrition-education/cooking-kids
Source: Ingrid Adams, Extension Specialist for Nutrition and Weight Management, University of Kentucky; College of Agriculture, Food and Environment