Nutritious Cooking with and for Kids -- Teacher Suzanne

One of the greatest joys of my childhood was cooking with my dad in the kitchen. He trusted me with spices, small knives and even boiling water at then tender age of 5. Children who learn to cook early in their life are more likely to continue to cook for themselves as they get older. There are many great social and health benefits of being about to cook for yourself so this is a super characteristic to encourage!

Get Ready

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1. Set up a convenient work space for you and your child. If it is going to be really messy, put down a white sheet on the floor under where you will work so that it is very easy to pick up, shake off and put straight into the washer. (With more children -- I did cooking projects with both of my children and, yes, we have to work hard on taking turns.) If you have limited counter space, it may make sense to do the preparation on the kitchen table.

2. Buy or borrow a stool. If you are working on a counter, find a stool to bring your child to the level of the activity. Learning towers are great, but a bit pricey. I used two chairs with backs and stood on the open side so no one could fall off.

3. Choose recipes. If cooking is new to your child, stick with simple, child-friendly recipes. While almost every recipe can be adapted to be of interest to small children, start with basic recipes (3-5 steps) and work your way up to more difficult ones. Choose foods that he likes to eat and will be excited to say that he helped make. Eventually, you can choose foods that are new to him in order to expand his experiences. Children are usually more likely to try foods that they helped cook.

Get Set

1. If you are using a cookbook, get out the cookbook or recipe that you will be using.

2. Assemble the ingredients you need before calling your child. (Mise En Place!)

3. Call your child and show him the recipe. Explain that if you don't know how to make something, you go to a cookbook for instructions. Children learn that books help us in many ways.

4. Wash Hands. Make sure your child washes his hands before any cooking activity. Let him see you

wash your hands. This way he learns that cleanliness rules apply to everyone, not just to children.

Go!!!!!

1. Name each ingredient as it is being used.

2. Let your child feel and smell the item you are using.

3. Let your child taste various ingredients.

WARNING: Never let your child taste raw eggs, fish, poultry or meat. These items can be dangerous to your child's (and your) health. When you work with a recipe containing these ingredients, have her taste the ingredients before any of the foods listed above are added.

4. Let your child put in as many ingredients as possible.

5. Let your child mix the ingredients. (Taking turns)

6. Let your child help you put the food into the oven, onto the stove top or into the refrigerator.

7. Clean Up. Let her see that the rule "clean up after you are finished" also applies to adults.

8. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. 

Your child's own cookbook

I find that children love having their own cookbook, with the recipes they make and pages that they decorate. You can make a cover for the cookbook. Suggest your child draw food pictures or cut them out of magazines and glue them to a cover. Take a picture with your child and one of her creations to put into the cookbook. This is a great gift for a grandma, grandpa, aunt/uncle or friend who cooks to contribute to when they come visit your child. Fun to have special receipes from special people!

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