Cooking With Kids: FUN and EDUCATIONAL for Both of You
by Lois Rubin Gross
You’ve just arrived home from work, and you’re trying to make dinner. The kids are underfoot as usual. You’re about to shoo them out of your workspace. Wait! Before you send them to the living room and another mind-numbing hour of Nick or Cartoonland, consider making your children your sous chefs in the kitchen.
Cooking with kids is messy and forces you to slow down your preparation, but it is fun for the kids and very, very educational. Think what goes into preparing a recipe.
- Your child needs to read (and even if they are just learning, they can “help” by picking out the small words they know).
- They learn to measure.
- They learn sequencing as you put ingredients in the bowl.
- They learn nutrition if you discuss the foods you are preparing.
- They learn that foods just don’t magically appear on the table
The kids may even learn to appreciate you more for the effort you make to get food on the table.
Many celebrity chefs now have cookbooks aimed at kids. Rachel Ray’s Cooking Rocks! (Lake Isle Press, Inc., 2004) Is a great example of the genre. The colorful cartoon illustrations entice kids and give background trivia about the food you are preparing. Recipes range from super simple to foods that require an adult’s assistance. The book is also divided into age categories with recipe complexity scaled to a child’s age and ability level.
Since I’m a vegetarian, I also like the incomparable Mollie Katzen’s Salad People and More Real Recipes (Tricycle Press, 2005) which is heavy on fruits and grains and includes adorable step-by-step illustrations and commentary from young chefs (“Peeling a cucumber is like giving it a haircut.”) If you have a veggie-adverse child, there is no easier way to commit them to eating their greens (and reds and oranges) than to have them participate in the preparation.
Super simple recipes for the youngest cooks can be found in Kids’ First Cookbook: Delicious-Nutritious Treats to Make Yourself! (The American Cancer Society, 2000). Known for its cool illustrations showing measurements, Kids’ First Cookbook teaches parents how to read nutritional labels and features a terrific variety of very easy recipes prepared by happy smiling junior chefs.
In preparation for cooking with kids, make sure you have the right tools. For example, nesting measuring cups and measuring spoons will be easier for a child to work with and to understand the concept of measuring. Plastic bowls are lighter for a child to handle and remove the fear of breakage. Many of these recipes are no-cook but, of course, adult supervision and guidance is needed.
If you’re a fan of TV’s Iron Chef, you know that plating is worth at least 20 points. The Kids’ First Cookbook actually gives you “blueprints” so you can lay out the food in attractive and fun-filled shapes for your child to eat. Don’t want to go that route? Take a look at the USDA’s “food plate” (the replacement for the “food pyramid” many of us grew up with) and show your child the relative amounts that protein, vegetables, and grains should take up on the plate. Work some art into the exercise by emphasizing that a colorful plate gives you a variety of nutrients and satisfies “eye hunger” as well as tummy grumbles.
Teaching children to be comfortable in the kitchen from an early age will stimulate their interest in their own healthy eating and nutrition. There are also hundreds of great books on food themes that will extend the experience of food preparation to story time, bedtime and beyond. Check out these 10 Children’s Books About Food.
Take the time to teach your child kitchen and food skills and, who knows, you may find yourself raising the next Bobbly, Giada, Aarti, or Rachel. You never know what kind of interest you will stir up in your child.
Lois Rubin Gross has an MS in Library Sciences from Drexel University. She is currently Senior Children’s Librarian at the Hoboken (NJ) Public Library. She has also worked as a librarian for children with special needs. She is a book reviewer for Children’s Literature and a blogger for After Fifty Living and Wise Women Now. Join her Facebook book community Lois Storylady.
Tags: cookbooks, cooking