While it may seem more like work than fun, cooking with kids at any age is a great way to spend quality family time together while teaching important life skills.
Cooking with kids can be a gift that keeps on giving, now and in the future. When kids cook at home they are:
- Exposed to healthy foods, which may positively shape their lifelong food preferences.
- Given opportunities to build reading, math, chemistry and problem solving skills.
- Provided opportunities to develop self-confidence and creativity.
Here are a few things to remember:
Provide age-appropriate opportunities to grow cooking skills.
- Kids as young as two years of age can help in the kitchen with simple tasks like washing fruits and vegetables and adding ingredients to a bowl. By age 12, kids can have the skills to do independent meal planning and preparation. Check out the Nutrition Tools for Schools guide for more information on age-appropriate food skills
- Supervise kitchen time and demonstrate safe food handling practices, including hand washing and keeping cooked and raw foods separate, as well as safe practices like working with knives and what to do in the case of a fire.
Keep it simple.
- Choose recipes that have fewer steps and ingredients and/or take a portion of a recipe and let your child help. For example, your child may be able to whisk and scramble the eggs while you complete the other pieces to make breakfast burritos. Check your local library or online for cookbooks with simple recipes.
Make it interactive.
- Especially in the beginning, cooking may mean letting kids choose from a variety of prepared ingredients to make their own version of the meal. In my home, “build your own meal” recipes have always been winners with all ages – our favourite being build your own pizza where everyone chooses from bowls of diced veggies, fruit and meat, grated cheeses and sauces like pizza sauce, pesto and hummus to top whole grain pita, tortilla or pizza dough.
To get you started, try this recipe for “build your own grilled cheese sandwich”:
- Bread (any kind you like)
- Cheese (try mozzarella, cheddar, brie, gouda, or another favourite)
- Toppings (sliced pears, apples, avocado or tomatoes; caramelized onions, cooked sliced potatoes, grilled vegetables like peppers or zucchini, spinach leaves, sliced meats, etc.)
- Condiments (pesto, honey, mustard, jalapeno jelly, jam, etc.)
Lay the ingredients out and let your family pile all their favourite cheeses and toppings on the bread. Brush each side of the bread with a little vegetable oil and then bake, broil or grill until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted. To make a balanced meal, serve with a green salad or a bowl of tomato soup!
For more healthy eating ideas and recipes like this, visit the recipes section on the Northern Health Matters blog!
This article was first published in A Healthier You, a joint publication of Northern Health and the Prince George Citizen.
About Flo Sheppard
Flo has a dual role with Northern Health—she is the NW population health team lead and a regional population health dietitian with a lead in 0 – 6 nutrition. In the latter role, she is passionate about the value of supporting children to develop eating competence through regular family meals and planned snacks. Working full-time and managing a busy home life of extracurricular and volunteer activities can challenge Flo's commitment and practice of family meals but flexibility, conviction, planning and creativity help!