This guest blog was written by Tammi Krier, a registered and licensed dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas Medical Center.
Imagine little 4-year-old fingers slicing a bell pepper with a plastic knife in between shoveling a few strips in her mouth. Eating “yucky” foods is something she’d never do with a meal. But kids are more likely to try foods they typically wouldn’t when they help prepare them.
That’s why I love teaching kids how to cook.
You too can let your kids help in the kitchen — and eat more healthy grub — no matter their age, skill level, special needs or learning capabilities.
At first, your kitchen might be left in a mess. But kids can eventually learn how to clean up and help in the kitchen.
Think about it: One family member cuts up lettuce for a salad, another browns meat for spaghetti and another cuts up strawberries. You’re supervising and getting a head start on washing dishes. Yes, it’s possible.
Here’s another benefit of getting the kiddos involved: It can help everyone eat what’s served and get you out of the business of being short-order cook.
There are plenty of age-appropriate tasks kids can do with adult supervision. Try these ideas to get started:
Kids 2 and under can:
- Play with plastic measuring cups and spoons with bowls of water, flour or oats.
- Learn to say names and colors of foods.
- Tear up lettuce or dump pre-measured ingredients into a bowl.
- Smell and taste foods.
- Rinse and scrub fresh produce such as carrots or potatoes.
- Tear, snap or break up foods.
- Pluck grapes from stems or pull leaves off produce.
- Dip foods into dips.
- Help stir.
- Measure and level dry ingredients.
- Cut with a plastic or dull butter knife.
- Shake up ingredients.
- Crack and beat eggs.
- Peel oranges.
- Carefully grate up cheese and softer veggies.
6- to 8-year-olds can:
- Read the recipe.
- Crack eggs.
- Measure ingredients (supervise for accuracy).
- Rinse, scrub and peel veggies such as carrots or cucumbers.
- Use a grater.
- Cut soft foods with a plastic or dull knife.
9- to 13-year-olds can:
- Follow simple recipes and make small meals or snacks by themselves.
- Use blenders and mixers after instruction.
- Use can openers.
- Remove trays from the oven with adult supervision.
- Use sharp knives after learning proper technique and practicing.
Your kids can help set and clear items on the table. They can also help clean up, wipe the table and sweep the floor. And when kids help in the kitchen, it’s easier to stay on top of the dishes and clean as you go — a timesaver.
Final words of advice
Stick with it, be patient, enjoy great food and have fun in the kitchen with your family! It’s great for the health and well-being of you and your children.
Tammi Krier is a registered and licensed dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas Medical Center. She has spent the past 12 years in retail, clinical, consultant and community settings promoting wellness and creating and implementing policies and programs to support good nutrition.
Tammi is the healthy eating director for the Greater Wichita YMCA, chair of the Health and Wellness Coalition of Wichita’s Food Policy Committee and past-president of the Wichita Dietetic Association.
Her responsibilities have included coordinating employee wellness initiatives; securing funding, creating and implementing the YMCA’s hands-on cooking program for kids; coordinating and implementing the Cooking Matters for Parents program; facilitating the Wichita-area Food Policy Committee; and securing funding and coordinating the Wichita-area Double Up Food Bucks program.