Kids in the kitchen

Getting Kids Excited About Cooking

I “met” Candice on Instagram quite some time ago. I loved following her posts about healthy, kid friendly food she made for her daughter, Lexi. Eventually Lexi was old enough and started helping Candice in the kitchen. I asked Candice to write this post because, as you may know, Tristan is not the best eater and I’m completely clueless as to how to involve him in the kitchen. It fills me with dread to be honest! I hope you enjoy reading this post as much as I did, and can take away some inspiration as to how you too can get your kids excited about cooking. 

Candice Lexi's lunch

Candice, Lexi’s Lunch

I’m Candice (AKA Lexi’s Mom) and Lexi’s Lunch is a place where I share bits and pieces of my family’s food adventures. I love celebrating food, family, good coffee, and life’s simple joys.

Lexi’s Lunch is a food blog focused on creating good food habits that are based on locally, seasonally, and ethically sourced foods. As a homeschooling family we use cooking as an educational experience. Fresh, original recipes, and real food advocacy are garnished with bits of humour and candid parenting confessions.

I share my recipes and experiences in the hope of inspiring other mothers to try new and healthy foods with their children.

Getting kids excited about cooking

Lexi has been helping me in the kitchen from the time she could stand on her little stool and hold a spoon. In her 7 years I have watched her blossom into a competent young cook and baker. I have also witnessed the incredible benefits of teaching children to cook from an early age.

Why is it important to cook with your children

Food is nutrition. Macronutrients, micronutrients, fibre…. they are important. But food is more than just nutrition. Food performs a particularly important social function.

Food provides an immensely powerful means of communication. When we cook and eat together with other people, we communicate. We become integrated into a family or into a society through the act, just the act, of sharing food.

Sharing a meal with family members is one of the ways we create a family narrative. We pass on our family’s traditions. A way in which we record our memories and pass those on. And a way in which we take the history of the generations that came before us and pass it on to the next generation.

Cooking together has a similar function. Certain dishes and recipes hold a lot of nostalgia for many of us. Cooking family dishes with your child is a way to pass this pleasure on to them.

How to get your kids excited about cooking

The kitchen can (and should be!) a fun place for children, rather than an exclusion zone. It is a place for experimentation, learning, and fun. Younger children are excited to help in the kitchen. Yet parents often hesitate to let children get involved in meal preparation or cooking. Years of chasing children out of the kitchen means that they are often disinterested when they are older. 

One of the questions I get asked most often is how do we get children excited about cooking?

Start a ‘my choice’ day

Let children experimentGive each child an opportunity to choose a dinner and prepare it with you once a week (or month).  Make a shopping list together and let your child help you with shopping for those ingredients. I rarely go to the supermarket, but I often let my daughter help me with selecting fresh ingredients online. We occasionally (pre-lockdown) visit the vegetable shop together where I let her choose her own ingredients to experiment with.

If you have a picky eater you can use this as an opportunity to get them to try new vegetables too. While you’re cooking talk about each ingredient and let children experiment and taste raw (or semi-cooked) foods.

Buy them a recipe book

One of the greatest things I did for my daughter was taking her to a book shop and letting her choose a recipe book herself. There are many recipe books for children that make it easy for them to learn to follow a recipe.

We have since bought a recipe index box and as she masters a recipe, we write it on a card for her to keep. This has given her a huge sense of achievement, which has made her even more excited about cooking.

Alternatively, do an internet search together, or help your child create a Pinterest board, and find recipes that your child would like to try.

Buy child-friendly utensils

As parents we often resort to bribery. Tempt your child into the kitchen by buying them a cute chef’s hat, child-friendly knives or an apron with their name on. Knives are a particularly good gift for children. Trusting a child and giving them autonomy in the kitchen is a great confidence booster.

Let children experiment

The thought of this brings fear to many parents. Let’s face it, children sometimes come up with some weird food combinations. Trusting them to create their own dishes and mix up a culinary storm will give them confidence in the kitchen. With confidence comes more enjoyment.

Research has shown that mixing foods is a great way to develop a child’s palate. It can lead to a gradual acceptance of vegetables and new flavours.  So let your child be creative. You may even discover some new flavour combinations yourself.

Share the fruits of their labour

Show your child how proud you are of them! Invite friends and family to enjoy your child’s cooking. Encourage them to have fun with plating their food creatively. My daughter loves to create elaborate food faces. It always gets a giggle out of guests which is a source of pride for her.

If your child is fortunate enough to have grandparents that live nearby, they make the best dinner guests.

By trusting your child in the kitchen, you will give them the confidence to explore, create and learn how to prepare healthy meals. Cooking is an important skill that gives children an appreciation for healthy food and helps them develop lifelong healthy eating habits.

Happy cooking!

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