Keeping It Real

By Susan Hartley

January 30, 2014

Kids in the Kitchen

By Holly McElwee

In last week’s column I discussed the importance of eating dinner together as a family. One central idea to that concept involves kids in the kitchen. There’s beauty in the time spent on nourishing your family, and kids learn it best when they begin to cook as youngsters.

Good cooking is truly an art form. My younger self could cook, meaning that I could take prepackaged food and create something that was edible. But understanding food and the nuances that accompany a delicious dish is a skill that must be rehearsed, just like anything else. I’ve learned a great deal about cooking thanks to my husband who understands food much better than I do. My attitude changed as I realized that cooking for family and friends is truly an expression of love.

So, how can you develop a love for cooking in your kids’ hearts and minds? Several strategies bring kids into the kitchen to start them on a journey of food appreciation.

Begin by including them as your helpers, or as we like to call it at our house, “sous chefs.” Kids of all ages can assist in cooking, and it makes them feel important. Whether it’s getting out the ingredients, pouring things into a mixing bowl, or stirring, there’s always a task to be completed. Older kids can learn to chop, peel, and manage a hot skillet. If you need time to teach skills, approach it on a weekend when time is not as tight as on a school night.

Get kids’ attention with their preferred foods. If your child is reluctant to serve as your assistant, entice them with foods you know they already enjoy. It’s more fun to make a batch of cookies than to prepare a vegetable side dish. Be patient. The goal is to get them interested, so take it slow. Once you’ve got them hooked, you can start to introduce new foods or engage them in the preparation of other dishes.

Watch cooking shows on TV. Something amazing happens when you watch cooking shows…you really want to cook. Watching the masters at work stirs up a sense of excitement. “I could do that!” you start to think. And, if you’re thinking it, kids will, too. Find an entertaining cooking show host and start to tune in regularly. Not only will you pick up a few tips and tricks, your family will start to see how much fun it is to cook.

Find kid friendly recipes. Search the Internet, look in magazines, or visit bookstores for recipes that are written for kids. The local library is likely to have kids’ cookbook available, too, including ones written by celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray. It won’t take much time to find recipes which engage your kids in the kitchen.

Turn your children into chefs and start them on the road to a lifetime of cooking. Make food and mealtime a priority in your family and equip your kids with healthy habits and attitudes for the years to come.

Read more at www.travelingteacheronline.com .