One of the easiest ways to get kids interested in their nutrition is to have them learn about cooking and baking. When a child is involved in the kitchen, they’re more likely to try all the amazing, healthy food they’ve made. They’re also learning a life skill they can use every day for a lifetime of healthy habits. Royal Lee Organics has some handy tips for parents wanting to introduce their children to the world of cooking. Don’t forget to browse our healthy recipes for additional ideas!
It’s never too late to start cooking with kids. Even if your child is already a teenager, they can still learn the basics of the kitchen. However, the younger they start, the better their nutritional habits, problem-solving skills, and fine motor abilities will be.
Preschool and Younger
Chances are your toddler already watches you in the kitchen, so make it an interactive show. Ask your little one to point out or name ingredients. Have them arrange your ingredients in alphabetical order. There are endless chances for learning something new.
Perhaps the best tasks for little kids are stirring and pouring ingredients. This will help tucker them out before naptime while letting them feel productive. Start with dry ingredients, like a cup of whole wheat flour. Larger amounts will be easier for them to hold without spilling. Just make sure it’s not too heavy.
Always keep an eye on your little one while in the kitchen. Put away sharp utensils right away and keep them away from the oven and stove when they are hot. While your toddler can help peel, snap, or break ingredients, save cutting for when they’re older.
Kindergarten and Early Elementary School
Once kids are a little older, they can take a more active role in your baking. Have yours help with the prep work by gathering the necessary utensils and ingredients. If you’re at the grocery store, pick specific items from your list for them to find. If you’re baking apple pie, let them select which apples you use.
If you’re using a recipe, have your child read the steps aloud to practice their vocabulary and pronunciation. This will help them learn the recipe and important cooking terminology. They can also practice basic math when dividing up ingredients, like figuring out how many eggs will be left over or when parsing down a larger recipe.
At this age, you can begin teaching your child about properly using a knife to avoid accidental cuts when cooking. Use their regular dinner knife and supervise them while cutting fruits and vegetables. There are specially made knives for kids with protective finger guards if you’re really worried about cuts.
Late Elementary School
Let your kids start making suggestions and experimenting with recipes. Let them see what happens if you use different measurements or ingredients. You might find your standard banana bread becomes much better through their suggestions.
If your child is learning about fractions, this is a great time to challenge them with measuring out ingredients for you. Measuring cups are a great visual for the differences between ¼, 1/3, and ½ cup.
Ask your child to help with the cleanup process as well. Washing dishes and putting ingredients away can still be fun if you clean up while waiting for your food to finish cooking. Use those tasks as a way to “speed up the time” until you get to enjoy the food you made.
Continue to supervise when it comes to cutting ingredients or using the oven. At this age, your child should be ready to use sharper kitchen knives.
Use more advanced techniques in your baking. Have them experiment with amounts, flavors, and textures. As a challenge, have them prepare an entire dessert by themselves. Royal Lee Organics™ has healthy dessert recipes that are easy to follow.
If your middle school age child has never cooked before, that’s okay! Start with some basic recipes of foods they enjoy to get them interested. Talk them through the process and they’ll be quick to pick up on the basics. It won’t be long before they’re ready to try baking on their own.
This is around the age most kids start to experience growth spurts. Many kids have to increase their caloric intake to help their body grow, leading to fluctuations in weight and making many kids self-conscious. With a solid understanding of nutrition, your child will be able to remain healthy as their body changes.
At this age, your children should be able to follow recipes completely on their own. Try to challenge your teen to prepare one meal a month for the family during their first year of high school and end their senior year with one meal a week. This will help them prepare for making meals on their own after graduation.
If your high school teen has never cooked before, try starting slow. Introduce them to basic techniques before letting them plan a meal. They should be able to measure ingredients and follow recipes on their own. Try finding an age-appropriate tutorial online to interest them more in cooking or find out if they can receive extra credit by baking cookies for their class.