Between working a nine-to-five and picking up the tots from school, you barely have time to make a proper meal for the fam. Well, why don’t you enlist the help of your kids in the kitchen? Not only will you spend quality time with him (and gain an extra hand in making dinner), but you’ll also teach him valuable lessons along the way.
“The benefits of cooking with your child include connecting with him, reinforcing math and reading skills, teaching about nutrition and learning responsibility,” says Dr. Mary Lou Gavin, medical expert for KidsHealth.org. “Learning how to cook is an important life skill so starting young will make it more likely your teen will be interested in cooking and nutrition.”
Preschoolers are a naturally curious bunch so this is a great time to get them involved in the kitchen. They can pour, stir and add ingredients while counting off each one. As they get older, children will be able to handle more difficult tasks like cracking eggs, measuring ingredients and learning fractions. Read recipes together to teach him new words, how to follow directions and sequencing. And a field trip to the supermarket will teach him how to make smart food choices and plan healthy meals.
Just take your child’s interest and abilities into account to keep him engaged. “It’s important to keep in mind that attention spans may be short and skills are just developing, so patience is key,” Gavin says.
Before you start, remind your child to stay away from hot pots, ovens, stoves, knives and other dangerous tools. This is also a great time to teach him about cleanliness and handling food with clean hands—especially when cooking with eggs and raw meat.
Ready to train your little chef? Here are two simple recipes just for kids:
Prep time: 5 minutes
What you need:
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 small can yellow corn, drained
1 jar mild salsa
Equipment & other supplies:
Spoon for mixing
What to do:
1. Combine the beans, corn, and mild salsa into a bowl.
2. Serve with baked tortilla chips.
Serves enough for a group.
Note: If you don't have a bagel, use a whole-wheat English muffin or a whole-grain pita.
Prep time: 15 minutes
What you need:
1 standard-sized whole-grain bagel, cut in half
Shredded mozzarella cheese (use reduced-fat cheese for a healthier choice)
Your favorite toppings (think diced green peppers, chopped onions and tomatoes, shredded carrots, olives, pineapples, sliced mushrooms, chopped cooked spinach or broccoli)
Seasonings (like oregano, basil and pepper)
Equipment and supplies:
Knife for chopping toppings
Oven or toaster oven
What to do:
1. Turn on the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut the bagel in half and cut up toppings, if needed.
3. Spread tomato sauce on each bagel half.
4. Add shredded cheese and other toppings.
5. Season lightly.
6. Put your bagel halves on the baking sheet. Put them in the oven or toaster oven for 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and bubbly.
7. Let cool for a minute before eating.
For more yummy recipes your little one can whip up, visit kidshealth.org.