Discovery Point Blog
Help Your Children Learn the Joy of Cooking with These Tips
It’s never too early to experience the magic of preparing your own nutritious and delicious meals. Whether your children are toddlers or school-aged, they can benefit from gaining a basic understanding of how their favorite dishes are made.
This does require a little patience on your part, but the results can be extremely rewarding. Not only will your children have more appreciation for the food they’re served, but they’ll also be more likely to enjoy eating healthy foods when they’ve participated in their preparation.
Making the Kitchen a Kid-Friendly Place
One of the keys to getting kids to take an interest in the kitchen is to let them take the driver’s seat for a while. Yes, this might mean they make some odd pairings every now and then, but this experimentation can lead to a valuable understanding of how flavors and textures work together.
It’s also worth biting your tongue the next time you find yourself wanting to complain about cooking. If your child hears that cooking is a miserable task, chances are they’re not going to want to give it a go anytime soon.
If cooking is one of your least favorite activities, try to focus on making quick, easy-to-assemble meals that are full of color and flavor. At some point, your child will be able to jump in to assist, leaving less work for you.
Children are also more likely to be excited about joining you in the kitchen if they have their own cooking utensils and tools. There are many options available for smaller sized spatulas, whisks, bowls, and even child-safe knives. Add on a child sized apron and oven mitts and you’re sure to have an eager participant in the kitchen.
Here are a few other tips that can help make spending time in the kitchen something your child looks forward to.
Use Toppings to Encourage Variety and Creativity
Plenty of basic meals can be jazzed up with creative toppings that give your child control over the final product. Breakfast toast is one example. Instead of only setting out jam and butter, make other ingredients like sliced or smashed avocado, cream cheese, nuts, spices, and dried fruits options to choose from.
Your child can even turn their toast into pizza with some tomato sauce, melted cheese, and a quick stint in the oven. If toast isn’t exciting enough to get those creative juices flowing, try using English muffins or bagels as your base.
Toppings can be added to a variety of dishes throughout the day. For breakfast, consider adding fruit and/or nuts to cereal or oatmeal. Spicing up lunch time is easy when you add cheese, crackers, and slices of meat that kids can stack and experiment with different flavor combinations. Come dinner time, tacos, salads, and pasta dishes are easy ways children can add a variety of toppings to create a custom dish.
Encouraging children to engage and express their preferences through food is a great way to get them to try new ingredients and broaden their palate.
Make Sweet but Healthy Swaps
Healthy, whole foods can taste just as good as or even better than processed sweets when you put a little thought into it. One of our favorite cookie substitutes that’s easy for children to assemble is apple rounds topped with peanut butter, chocolate hazelnut spread, or melted caramel. Add some crushed pretzels, coconut flakes, or mini-chocolate chips and they even look like cookies!
Banana “sushi” is also a sweet treat that’s on the healthy side of the spectrum and simple enough for children to prepare on their own. Just spread a tortilla with Nutella and wrap around a whole, peeled banana. Slice into rounds and add any fruity garnish you have on hand, from sliced strawberries to raisins. You can also swap out the Nutella for peanut butter!
Let Your Freezer Do the Work
Having some no-bake recipes on hand is great for when you don’t want to risk curious fingers getting near a hot pan. Utilizing your freezer is one way to transform raw ingredients into something perfectly cool and delicious for hot summer days.
Your child will love helping to make frozen yogurt bark. First, line a baking sheet with parchment paper (be sure to choose a baking sheet that will fit inside your freezer). Then, mix a tablespoon of vanilla into a large container of plain yogurt, pour it into the baking sheet, and spread it out a little to make an even layer. Sprinkle chopped pieces of fruit or whole berries on top before freezing for 3-4 hours. After that, all you have to do is slice it up and enjoy!
You can easily riff on this recipe to get creative with your frozen treats. For example, we love dipping blueberries into yogurt before freezing them whole. They’re just as fun to make as they are to eat!
These ideas may be the first steps toward creating an enthusiastic chef. They will also get your child interested in exploring all the kitchen has to offer. As long as your child remains engaged with the process of preparing their own food, they’ll be more likely to see cooking not as an inconvenience, but as a way to nourish both their body and their creativity.