I am a big advocate for teaching children about food, grocery shopping, and cooking. I believe that these are the skills that will help them grow up to be healthy adults. I’ve joined in with Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution as a Volunteer Global Ambassador because I really believe in what his Revolution stands for. One of the platforms is the need for food education in schools. According to the Food Revolution website, “Food education is not compulsory in all schools. Elementary kids in the US get 3.4 hours per year.”
Schools are not going to teach our children about food and how to cook and children are not going to learn on their own. Many of you are likely thinking…….”How am I going to teach my children to cook?” Time is short and pressure to get homework and after-school activities complete is high. Where are we going to find the time to teach kids about food? Teaching children basic cooking skills really doesn’t have to be complicated. It doesn’t even have to be a well thought-out lesson. There are plenty of impromptu moments that will likely come through your week. Just keep your eye out for them.
This weekend while enjoying the afternoon with my in-laws, my mother-in-law presented several fun cooking skill opportunities. She had clementines and bananas ready to make those adorable pumpkins and ghosts that you’ve probably seen all of the Internet. They are really cute in person and so fun to make! I recommend you give it a try with your little or not so little ones. My daughter had the chance to peel the oranges and bananas. She also had the opportunity to cut celery and bananas. She was learning basic knife skills while she thought she was making edible arts and crafts. She was also learning that peeling fruit is just as easy as peeling open packaged and processed food.
She was having so much fun helping in the kitchen that when it came time to cut limes for the………um cocktails, she was eager to learn to cut the limes as well. We were further blessed when her culinary student, future aunt showed her some additional knife skills including a nifty way to hold the lime so that her fingertips would be safely tucked away. I sure did appreciate that extra advice. I’m kind of attached to those precious little fingers.
My mind is always thinking about this blog even while having a fun afternoon. My mother-in-law said, “You are going to right about this, aren’t you?” Of course, I am. Family time is exactly what this blog is about. Spending time laughing and cooking and eating. These are the greatest joys in my life.
Now to those tips that I promised you. These are tried and true tips that I use with my family.
1. Keep it fun!
This is not school. There won’t be a test at the end. Have fun cutting bananas and sticking chocolate chips in them to create cute ghosts. The more children handle food, the less nervous they will be about it and the more likely they are to want to be in the kitchen with you for additional lessons.
2. Don’t assume they know the terminology.
Remember you are working with blank slates here. Don’t frustrate your children by speaking the kitchen language that they don’t understand. They don’t know what you mean when you say you are going to saute the vegetables. Heck! They don’t even know what a teaspoon and tablespoon are unless you teach that to them.
3. Let your kids be involved in the process.
Kids respond better when they are involved in the process. Let them help you pick recipes that include their favorite foods. They are not likely to be interested in cooking if you are working with foods they are not interested in eating. Alternate back and forth between treats and more healthy meals. My sister became quite the baker because she loved eating chocolate chip cookies.
4. Remember cooking is more than just cooking.
Time spent in the kitchen is a great time to discuss cooking and nutrition, but it is so much more than that. Time in the kitchen is made sweeter when you realize you have the time to talk about family traditions, different cultures, politics, and favorite family memories. Children love to hear about their grandparents before they were grandparents. Don’t be afraid to talk to your children about things other than sports, video games, and their favorite TV shows. We “old people” have so much we can teach them and our children are eager to hear it.
5. Have a realistic goal.
We are not trying to teach our children to create gourmet meals in just a few lessons. They are going to make a bigger mess than you would if you cooked alone. And yes, you could certainly would get the cooking done quicker if you just did it yourself. It is important to take the time to teach your children basic cooking and nutrition skills anyway. My oldest has loved to be in the kitchen since he was young. He has his own Iron Chef apron. Most kids watch cartoons. He loved to watch cooking shows. He still does. Before he left for college he had my DVR full of cooking shows. I included him in making homemade gifts every Christmas. One day I realized………..he was quite a help!
Teach them young. They don’t stay little long!
What are your favorite tips for including your children in the kitchen? At what age did you first let them help in the kitchen? What is your favorite memory of cooking with your family?
I can’t wait to hear from you. Leave me a comment here and I invite you to join the fun on our various social media. Just join us by using the various buttons at the top of the page. Lots more recipes, tips and fun to be had by all! If you are new to the blog……..I invite you to check out our Weekly Challenges. This is a great systematic way to to eat more of a Real Food diet and eliminate processed food. This is the approach my family took to overhauling our diet. Remember……small changes can create dramatic changes to your overall health. Good luck!