Every day we read reports of the effects of ever increasing problems of poor nutrition and bad food choices on children in particular. Using time in the kitchen with their children for cooking lessons will teach children about healthy food choices, safety, hygiene and other basic skills.
Healthy food choices:
If you engage your children in preparing meals they will be far more interested in eating the final product. Use a brightly colored chart with the basic food groups to illustrate how to combine different foods to make a healthy, balanced meal. Guide your child in choosing combination’s of foods, make it an exciting experience and allow your child to experiment.
Working safely and hygienically:
Basic hygiene such as washing your hands before working with food. Washing any produce before preparing it. The safe use of knives and other cooking utensils are skills that children can learn whilst preparing ingredients and cooking.
Creativity and experimentation:
Children are curious by nature. Children enjoy experimenting and using their creative abilities. Initially provide basic ingredients such as precooked rice, pasta, pizza bases or different types of bread. Add some canned tuna or other fish, meat, easy to prepare vegetables, cheese and condiments (spices, herbs and sauces). Encourage your child to taste the different ingredients especially if you are introducing new ones and then let them create their own recipe. It would be wise to consider some recipes or combination’s beforehand and to allow enough, but not too much choice. You are aiming to make it a fun experience whilst avoiding a kitchen calamity.
Learning to identify, sort, count and measure – Use the gathering of ingredients as a process of learning basic skills. Prepare a big basket filled with a variety of ingredients suitable for a number of recipes. Have two or three easy to use recipes available for your child to choose from. Then read through the list of ingredients together and let your child identify and gather the ingredients needed to prepare the meal. Once you have the correct ingredients remove the basket from sight to keep your child focused on the task at hand. The child can now prepare the ingredients and with your guidance follow a recipe.
Measuring, co-ordination and time management – You can initially use very easy to work with ingredients. Teach your child to measure a quantity of liquid and add a measured amount of powder to make a fruit flavored drink. The next step could be preparing a smoothie with milk or yogurt and chopped fruit. This teaches the child to use eye-hand co-ordination and basic knife handling skills. Next, move on to a basic cup cake recipe which will introduce the element of time keeping and different mixing techniques.
Your child can be taught the basic principles of recycling by sorting different packaging materials such as plastic, glass and metal. If you have a garden you can also consider starting a compost bin into which kitchen waste can be recycled.
Growing your own vegetables:
Another exciting activity related to cooking skills is having a small kitchen garden in which you can grow your own vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, peppers, peas, beans and even zucchini squashes. Your children will love watching the vegetables grow and enjoy getting their hands dirty. And your compost bin will be a healthy source of nourishment for your plants.
Whilst you will initially have to sacrifice some additional time to get your children involved in meal preparation they will benefit from cooking lessons both mentally and physically and your food bills will also reduce significantly.