Teaching your grandkids how to cook is one of the best gifts you can give them. A cook must be creative, understand math fundamentals, science, nature, have excellent hand-eye coordination and be constantly attentive to reading and writing. These life skills are among the most important to teach children when young. Getting the grandchildren involved in preparing their own meals is also a wonderful opportunity to instill the importance of eating nutritious meals. It may eventually become necessary to teach children how to prepare meals to help out with family food shopping, preparation and cleanup. Also, once they young adults it is necessary for survival! Remember, though, that all children should be supervised in the kitchen.
How to get started
To begin it is important to consider the nutritional needs of most school-aged children. Cooking should center around creative foods that meet their growing needs. When choosing recipes try to select those that span at least one or two food groups.
1. Ask the child what they would like to prepare and try to steer them in the healthy direction. Turn the event into a total experience by shopping for the ingredients together.
2. Foods and recipes should match the abilities of your child. When dealing with foods a child might prepare alone, prepare them together at least once first.
3. Supervise children as they work with knives, the stove and other potentially dangerous equipment.
4. Have children help you store the food and leftovers to teach them how to handle food to avoid spoilage and food borne illnesses.
If you are just getting started consider using “no cook” recipes that give your child a feel for cooking and the kitchen without the stress of frying or baking.
A few no-bake ideas:
1. Make banana pops. Peel a banana, dip it into low-fat yogurt, roll in crushed nuts and freeze on cookie sheets.
2. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes from whole grain bread. Spread with peanut butter or add turkey or cheese to make sandwiches.
3. Make fun kebabs. Skewer pieces of fruit or vegetables onto thin pretzels sticks.
Preparing food with kids offers an ideal opportunity to help them explore a wide variety of foods at the same time they learn how to handle and prepare foods in a healthy way. Pull up that kitchen stool and start “cookin”!
Links for more ideas:
National Network for Child Care
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, National Institutes of Health: Cooking with Children
Janice Wade-Miller is a nutrition educator in Tallahassee, Florida. She has earned her bachelors and masters degrees in Food and Nutrition from Florida State University. In her role as a health educator, she has assisted all age groups, from young children to senior citizens in learning about good nutrition, health and food safety. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.