Preparing meals and eating together is one of the best ways to teach kids healthy eating habits. Just like bedtime routines, kids also need meal routines. Mealtime should be a time for the family. Allow your kids to participate in the meal preparation and eat together at the table. Switch off the TV and talk together as a family.
Cooking with Kids
Letting your kids help in preparing meals will make them more inclined to try new foods. However, it is important to respect your kids’ choices. Studies show that requiring kids to try new foods might make them more resistant to tasting anything new or unusual. Encourage, but never force them to try new foods. Children as young as 3 years old can perform small tasks to help prepare meals and snacks.
Three year olds can:
• Wrap potatoes in foil
• Throw things in the trash
• Wipe tables
• Tear lettuce
• Mix ingredients
Four year olds can perform what three year olds can, plus:
• Peal oranges or hard-boiled eggs
• Mash bananas using a fork
Five year olds can do what 3- and 4- year olds can, plus:
• Measure ingredients
• Pour cold liquids
• Use an egg beater
• Snap green beans
Cooking with kids allows them to learn the importance of washing one’s hands before cooking (and eating) and how to work safely with foods and kitchen utensils. Preparing food with kids also encourages them to clean your workspace after cooking and even wash the dishes afterwards, with the help of safety step stools of course. What’s more, kids will also learn many important cooking skills and vocabulary.
Also kids these days have become so accustomed to having food cooked for them that when they become adults they resort to eating unhealthy instant foods because they grew up not knowing how to cook, much less prepare anything healthy.
Mealtimes are a time for the whole family to bond and talk to each other. It should be a time for everyone to enjoy food and not fight over it. Here are some tips to make family mealtimes enjoyable for you and your kids:
• Do not force you kids to finish their meal. Allow them to stop eating when they feel full.
• If your kids do not feel like eating, do not force them. However, make sure to turn off the TV and put away all toys. Make your kids join the family at the table to let them know that mealtimes are for sitting at the table, talking as a family and enjoying the food.
Cooking and eating meals with kids also help teach them good manners. When the food is ready, teach your children to wait until everyone is seated before eating. Teach them to say “please” and “thank you” and “may I please have some more chicken?” And most importantly, they learn – and appreciate – the hard work that goes into preparing food.
By Dana Mulder