Cooking together as a family not only serves as a fun way to spend time together, it helps get the picky eaters of the family (even toddlers) consuming the meal — vegetables and all. Studies show that when kids are involved in cooking, they are more likely to eat new foods. As kids get hands-on with ingredients, dishes become less foreign and intimidating.
And hopefully, when all members of the family help with the meal, the primary cook’s plate won’t be as full, allowing an overall sense of ease and more time to enjoy the family.
Here are some tips to get the family cooking:
1. Make it a family affair
Have everyone participate in selecting the menu. After identifying options that fit within the adults’ acceptable boundaries (i.e. length of cooking time, budget, complexity, etc.), have a meeting to select the recipes. When the family chooses the meal as a team, a sense of investment is created, which in turn gets the group excited about the activity, as well as about eating the final product.
2. Timing is everything
Set yourself up for success by choosing an appropriate time to prepare the meal. Cooking with kids can take longer than when an adult prepares the meal. Start cooking when there’s plenty of padded time, people aren’t grumpy due to hunger, and there are no distractions.
Work together, from soup to nuts, not only with the cooking, but also other aspects of the meal — from setting the table to cleaning the dishes.
4. Everybody can cook
Identify a task that’s appropriate for your child’s age and skill set. For example, even a two-year-old can tear fresh herbs, or use a plastic knife to cut soft vegetables. By assigning tasks you know your child will be successful at, a sense of pride and independence is gained — and you will have your hands free to attend to the meal prep that you’re managing.
5. Dinner’s on
As parents, keep in mind that you’re role models. Parents shouldn’t forget to eat their vegetables, too. Make sure to keep food aversions to yourself. And, of course, sitting down to eat together allows time for the family to share stories and conversations. Overall, keep in mind that cooking is fun. Remember that it’s about the activity as a family — and it’s not the end of the world if the diced vegetables aren’t perfectly shaped.
Kids Food Festival Fresh, Flavorful & Fun Salsa
- 4 tomatoes
- 1 cup strawberries
- 1 mango
- 2 kiwi fruit
- 1 seedless cucumber
- 2 different colored bell peppers
- 1 15.5-ounce can cannellini beans
- 1 8-ounce can corn
- 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 limes
- olive oil, to taste
- salt and pepper, to taste
- chips (baked chips for a healthier option)
- Dice tomatoes, strawberries, mango, kiwi fruit, cucumber, and peppers, and place in a medium mixing bowl.
- Add beans and corn to the bowl and stir together.
- Tear or chop cilantro leaves and add to the bowl.
- Dress salsa with lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper, to taste. Mix well and eat with chips!
- Hands-on helping: kids can help cut fruits and vegetables with a kid-friendly safety knife.
- Include the whole family: Even the youngest helpers can wash the produce and tear the fresh herbs.
- Balance is best: For great guidelines, see ChooseMyPlate.gov
- Make smart food choices: Ask kids to pick three favorite fruits instead of the fruits listed above! Vote on a bean variety instead of white beans. Have the family choose between cilantro and mint.
Cricket Azima, Founder, The Creative Kitchen and Kids Foods Festival, [email protected]