As a registered dietitian and mom, it’s a dream of mine that my kids would leave our home when they’re 18 knowing how to cook. Research shows that when you make meals at home, you consume considerably less salt, fat, and sugar. Additionally, when kids cook with you, they are more likely to try new foods or textures because they were part of the preparation process. For instance, my son doesn't like broccoli, but when he helps me separate the broccoli florets and add oil and spices to the bowl, he experiences the texture raw, and then can see how the texture changes when it’s cooked. He still may not like the texture, but at least it’s not foreign to him now. What is most important when kids are young is giving them many, many opportunities to try new foods, cooked in many different ways. Texture is a big deal for kids; the more we can demystify it, the easier it will be for them to have the courage to try a food they “say” they don’t like.
Plus, most of the time kids like to cook. Why? Kids love to make things and experiment with textures, plus young kids just want to be near their caregivers. At first, cooking with kids will be really messy, but over time it will be fun for you and your child. This quote has inspired me to empower my kids to be independent.
“It is not what you do for your children, but what you have taught them to do for themselves that will make them successful human beings.” - Ann Landers
If you let go of perfection and allow for the kitchen to get a little messy, as they get older, they will be able to be more independent with their helping. My 3 year old puts away all the silverware once the dishes are clean, and he is so proud of himself once he’s accomplished this task. My 5.5 year old has learned how to peel carrots, and he will peel an entire bag of carrots while I make the rest of dinner. If you want your kids to get involved, give them tasks that are simple, help them with the task 3-5 times, then see if they can do it themselves. Praise their efforts even if there is a big mess or they weren’t able to complete the task exactly the way you would have wanted them to. Little by little they will get it.
In that spirit, my family has been loving RadDish, a Cooking Club for kids. Each month you get a recipe kit with three different recipe cards, table talk questions, and cooking utensils, and their first kit even comes with an apron. We do one recipe a week. If there is a recipe that we really like, we may do it again that month, or circle back to another recipe. Once a week, I set aside a night to cook with my kids. I know it will take a little longer than me making dinner on my own, so I allow for about 30-60 minutes of prep time. It’s really fun, a good learning experience for my kids, and a great memory for us all. However you choose to get your kids involved in the kitchen, give yourself grace, because it will be more work, but in the end, it will be worth it. Growing up, my dad would have all of us do chores together rather than having a chore chart. I didn’t love doing the chores, but I loved spending time with my family, and it felt good to accomplish something together.
I hope you feel inspired to cook with your family and try something new. You never know what you will learn and what they will learn alongside you!
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JoAnn Gruener, RD, CDE
Health Advisor | Email JoAnn