Camila Alves shares her love of cooking with her husband, Matthew McConaughey, and their three children, son Levi, age 8, daughter Vida, 6, and son Livingston, 3.

Early empowerment

“Getting the kids involved in the kitchen, in a safe way, is not only fun, but also teaches them about everything from measuring to nutrition,” explains Alves, a native of Brazil who grew up in a family of farmers who valued healthy foods.

“Kids love to cook. It is so much fun for them. Cooking engages them and gives them the freedom to make things they love. And they get instant gratification when they eat what they make.”

Creating a safe space                      

While exercising caution, Alves urges families not to make kitchens so barricaded that they are intimidating. By applying common sense and few simple rules, it’s easy to make cooking a safe and fun family activity.

“Walk into the kitchen and look at what could really hurt kids,” she says. “Unplug appliances, put knives in childproof drawers, keep cleaning products stored away in a safe place and always turn handles inward on the stove in case kids run by.”

“‘Walk into the kitchen and look at what could really hurt kids...’”

Adding more responsibility

When her oldest son showed an interest in cooking but was too young to use the stove, Alves purchased an inexpensive electric frying pan from Target. Under her watchful eye and using the simple controls, he could prepare his own recipes. “Now he can use a knife under my supervision and has progressed to the stove,” Alves says. She adds that it’s important to carefully demonstrate to smaller children the heat given off from the stove.

Many families start their culinary adventures baking along with their small children, but Alves recommends widening the menu. “We love to make granola and smoothies and you can use smoothie leftovers to make popsicles.” Follow Camila on Instagram and Twitter @iamcamilaalves.

CONSCIOUS CAUTION: From creating her own line of organic baby food to empowering her children to be comfortable working in the kitchen, Alves is dedicated to ensuring her family is both healthy and cautious.

Providing convenient nutrition

Her quest to offer healthy options for kids was so strong that when she couldn’t find products that met her needs, she co-founded Yummy Spoonfuls, a line of frozen, squeezable organic baby-food purees. The usage stretches beyond toddlers, as her family uses them in smoothies and as a lunchbox staple.

A hands-on mom — the former model chatted about cooking safety while picking her kids up from school — she admits her third child “threw me for a loop.” But she quickly learned to manage. “We are a family on the go. We travel a lot. I had my systems down with two, but that all went down the drain with the third,” she jokes. “Now we still have chaos, but it is manageable chaos.”

Since they are all close in age, Alves says her kids all get along well — in and out of the kitchen. “They are best friends and share similar activities and always have built in play dates.” Like any mom, she admits to daily challenges. “Experiences are different for every family,” she says. “But what we all have in common is we are trying to do the right thing for our families. We don’t always succeed, but we try to do our very best.”