There are many valuable lessons for children to learn from being involved in the preparation of family meals and there are several easy ways to encourage them. Such lessons go beyond basic cooking skills and are something that any mum (or dad) can start to teach right away.
The benefits of involving your children in the preparation of family meals:
- Children are more likely to accept and eat the meal if they have had involvement in the preparation of the dish. They can see how a recipe is made and exactly what ingredients go into the meal which can result in greater acceptance of the finished dish.
- Cooking can give kids a great sense of achievement and it can teach skills, for example, learning to measure and weigh, sharing the responsibility of various tasks and working as a team, seeing a process through from start to finish and the joy of making things and sharing the end result with others.
- Children will learn about different foods, textures, colors, tastes, nutrition and healthy methods of cooking .
- It’s fun! What a great source of entertainment and a great indoors activity that you can both enjoy if the weather outside is no good.
- Cooking lets children be creative and encourages them to make decisions i.e. what topping should I put on the pizza? What should I mix together for this salad? What yummy things can go in my school lunchbox?
Simple steps to encourage children to participate in the kitchen:
- Get them involved with the family meal planning for the week.
- Ask them to help you make one of their favorite dishes.
- Make it enjoyable and an activity for them to look forward to. When they come to know that a cooking session with you is great fun, they will look forward to it and be begging you to let them help again next time.
- Suggest that they make something for someone else i.e. cookies for their school friends or a dinner for their grandparents. This will show them the joy of cooking and they will have a proud sense of achievement once it’s completed.
- Encourage your children to taste and smell different ingredients along the way. You will be surprised at the foods they find “yummy” and “yukky”.
- Encourage your children to choose a new and easy Lunchbox recipe to try and get them to help you make it.
- Get them involved with the whole process from buying the ingredients with you, to measuring up, stirring and mixing, setting tables, serving the end product and of course cleaning up. Children will soon learn that there is so much more to a family meal than just eating it!
- Make sure you give them safe tasks to perform. Keep potentially dangerous tasks such chopping with sharp knives and working with the oven and stove off limits.
- Make sure the tasks are age-specific. You can get a child as young as 2-3 helping you do simple tasks such as stirring a mixture or washing vegetables in the sink. As the child gets older you can start to give them more challenging tasks such as measuring out ingredients, spooning mixtures into a pan and serving the dish.
- If children have been involved in cooking from a young age, you may even find that they will get to a stage where they will take responsibility for choosing and preparing an entire family meal on a specific night of the week (with a little help from mum of course). Now wouldn’t that be nice!
There really are so many positive things about trying to encourage your children to become more involved in the preparation of family meals. By trying out these easy steps, you will soon be on your way to having happy little helpers in your kitchen too.
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