By Lynn Wilson
Children learn best when they are actively involved so the kitchen is a perfect environment! When interested and all of their senses are engaged your grandchildren will thrive, so provide opportunities for listening, touching, tasting, smelling, and feeling. The kitchen is just the right place to learn new words and expand on your grandchild’s vocabulary. Early math, science and literacy skills are clearly involved when you and your grandchild are measuring, stirring, baking and tasting! We can encourage healthy eating habits, that we hope will last until adulthood, when we explore the textures, colours, and tastes of our foods. Cooking also allows our grandchildren to feel a sense of pride and accomplishment when they are able to prepare and share what they have made. This may be the beginning of traditions that may be carried from generation to generation. Great fun awaits!
20 Fun Activities:
- Special Gear: Help them get into the mood for cooking by providing a chef’s hat, an apron and child size items such as spoons, child friendly plastic knives, a bigger plastic bowl than needed to help contain energetic stirring etc.
- Touchie, Feelie: Infants will enjoy the sensations of touch, smell and taste when they explore an orange, a lemon, a grapefruit etc. Put it right in their laps! Talk about what you are doing and label everything. Sing whenever you can!
- From The Highchair: Place items on the tray and talk about them, experiment with “hot” and “cold” items etc. You can also give them their own bowl and spoon and items inside to stir.
- Quick and Easy: As young children have a limited attention span you may want to engage in experiences that give you quick results by preparing together scrambling eggs, wraps, juices, smoothies, salads etc.
- Tear It Up: Toddlers can be given the task of tearing up lettuce or spinach for the salad.
- Spreading: Using a food spreader, give your grandchild soft spreads or peanut butter (if not allergic) to put on top of a sturdy cracker.
- Shaking Apple Slices: Shake up plain apple slices by putting several into a Ziploc bag and letting your grandchild sprinkle on cinnamon. Seal up and shake away.
- Crushing: Using a Ziploc bag, place items such as graham crackers into the bag and ask your little one to crush and smash away. You can also use a rolling pin. Use the crumbs for a pie crust.
- Colour Day: Provide vegetables and fruits that are just one colour – strawberries, radishes, tomatoes, red peppers, raspberries etc.
- Cut and Snip Away: With a plastic serrated child friendly knife, young children can cut up strawberries, cooked carrots, cucumbers etc. They can also nibble along the way! For little hands, try giving them a pair of blunt scissors to cut green onions, basil, parsley, or dried fruit such as apricots.
- Dip It: Vegetables and fruit always taste better if you can dip them into something interesting – try salsa, guacamole, yogurt etc.
- Snap: Give your grandchild green beans to snap.
- Fruit Kabobs: Using fruit that is easy to skewer, cut melons and pineapples, grapes etc. and thread them onto wooden skewers for a tasty and healthy treat then dip away in yogurt.
- Squishy Snacks: You need a third of a banana, a large spoonful of peanut butter and a small Ziploc bag. Put all the ingredients in the bag and make sure it is sealed tightly. Let your grandchild squish away until the ingredients are all mixed. Push all the ingredients to one corner of the bag, snip off the end of the bag with scissors and squeeze the mixture onto bread or crackers.
- Sandwiches: Make open face sandwiches with faces – raisins for eyes, a piece of carrot for a nose, a slice of radish for the mouth and sprouts for hair. All kinds of options await.
- Snack Necklaces: Using a string for a necklace or a licorice string, you can loop on pretzels, Cheerios etc. and eat away.
- Pancakes: Nothing is more fun than pouring out pancake mix into the shape of the first letter of your grandchild’s name! Add faces to your pancake in the traditional round shape with fruit pieces.
- Edible Flowers and Vegetables: Create a salad, for example of vegetable florets and have edible flower petals for dessert. Paint pansy flowers with egg white then sprinkle on fine sugar and leave them to dry!
- Books: There are so many wonderful children’s books that lend themselves to food experiences. A great way to make a book come alive is to serve Green Eggs and Ham after reading the book by Dr. Seuss. Make porridge after reading The Three Bears, or making gingerbread men or a gingerbread house – a big project but delicious when finished. Another classic is Stone Soup by Marcia Brown. Read the story then cook away!
- Family Cookbook: Create a document together with all of the family’s favourite recipes as a gift for a special occasion. You might take photos of your grandchild preparing some of the recipes and the finished products to include in the cookbook.
Lynn Wilson is an accomplished professor and published author specializing in early childhood development. A Handbook for Grandparents blends her academic distinctions and numerous career accomplishments with her own personal experiences and practical knowledge.