The new year is upon us and we feel inspired to explore new learning opportunities or make changes to our lifestyle. Whether we create resolutions or set goals for the coming year, it’s a lot easier to make small changes to stay on track. For example, if you choose to eat healthier and cook your meals from scratch, then start small and make simple tweaks to your daily routine to be successful. We always encourage parents to cook as a family and get everyone involved at any age.
Learning to cook and prepare meals is an important skill for all kids to possess. We know that it helps them build confidence, self-esteem, and become more independent. It also fosters stronger relationships with family and helps children learn about nutrition and gain an appreciation for healthy eating.
Daily meal preparation has many steps and children can be involved at all stages. Check out our TIPS and try using some or all of these suggestions at your home this year! Be sure to start small and talk to your kids about how they can help in the kitchen.
TRY OUR TIPS:
1. Communication is key! Have a family meeting and get your kids on-board with the plan. Talk to them about the importance of learning to cook and how they can assist with meal preparation. Encourage children to discuss how they would like to help out and then you can work on assigning daily responsibilities. A family functions best when everyone works together and everyone contributes. Use the time in the kitchen to learn new skills, share and build strong relationships with family members.
2. Plan your meals as a family. What’s on the menu this week? Why not sit down with your kids and find out what they like to eat and search for some great recipes to try. When your kids are involved in meal planning, it gets them interested in the food they eat (which helps tremendously with picky eaters) and sparks excitement in the cooking process. For example, ask your kids to grab a favourite cookbook or search online for a dish that they would like to try. Create your shopping list and then take them shopping! A trip to the grocery store is a great way to teach them how to pick out your food and perhaps find some new and interesting produce to try!
3. Try the Duty or Chore Wheel! We love the idea of including children in all aspects of the cooking process. The Duty Wheel enables you to assign kid-friendly duties to help with meal preparation. You can spend quality time together in the kitchen while getting your little ones to help with many low risk cooking activities. Depending on the age of your children, you can create a wheel with all family members and a list of kitchen duties. Turn the wheel daily or weekly so that everyone is responsible for a different activity. Here are some examples of key duties that your children can help with; and then feel free to create a more specific list that works best for your family members:
- Prep work: wash produce, measure, pour, whisk or stir.
- Set the table and pour water glasses: a task for little ones that gets them involved in the family meal.
- Clear off the table and load / unload dishwasher: children learn that cleaning is part of the cooking process.
- Wash the dishes that do not go in the dishwasher; clean countertops and stovetops.
- Get all your leftovers packed up and pack lunches.
NOTE: There are several versions of the Duty or Chore Wheel available Online to download and print for your household. For example: https://www.rewardcharts4kids.com/chore-wheel/
4. Establish the “Cook or Clean” Rule. As we all know, cleaning up is part of the cooking process. We think that the “Cook or Clean” Rule is another great way to educate kids about the entire cooking process. You can teach them responsibility by asking them to help clean up spills and messes made while cooking. And there is also the task of putting food items back in the fridge or in the cupboards after we are finished using different ingredients. Ask your children which cooking or cleaning duties they would like to help with and that way they can feel involved and responsible for part of the meal preparation process. If you cook, then you don’t clean and vice versa.
5. Teach Safety! Be sure to explain to children that the kitchen is a place with potential danger, from sharp knives and utensils to hot ovens and stoves. By introducing your children to the kitchen you have the opportunity to teach them about safety. Remember to always supervise in the kitchen. Younger children can do tasks that do not involve knives or the stove, such as measuring, stirring, whisking, and washing. Older children should be taught the proper way to use knives and electrical appliances; under parental guidance. This is also a good time to teach about hygiene in the kitchen. Ensure that everyone washes their hands and anyone with long hair pulls it back in a hair tie. Children are always watching, so be a good role model in the kitchen.
6. Inspire discussions about food at the dinner table. Sitting together and eating as a family is a great time to talk about the food you are eating. What do you like or dislike? And talk about the ingredients and seasonings. You can teach kids about healthy food choices, the correct serving size and show them that healthy food can be delicious. This dialogue not only helps your children develop a greater understanding of food and cooking, but by sharing positive feedback and perspectives of the meal, picker eaters may want to join in both the discussion and the consumption of the meal.
We hope that you can incorporate some of these small changes into your lifestyle in the new year. Although change is not an easy task, we know that there are so many benefits when you get your kids helping out in the kitchen. We are confident that even small changes will bring your family together and teach children many valuable skills, such as responsibility and independence, and it may lessen the load on parents too!