Raising kids to be nutritious eaters isn’t walk in the park. It takes lots of time and effort to teach them healthy habits – nevermind making them genuinely interested. As a mom of two little girls, Suzi of Gurl Gone Green started thinking about ways to get her little ones involved when her oldest was just starting to eat solid foods. So she started this journey early! Suzi shares with us her secrets on getting her kids in the kitchen to pique their interest in food, cooking and helping.
I learned early on to let my oldest get in on the kitchen fun. The more she was part of the process the more she realized how food was really made. Even when she could only stand on her chair and play with measuring cups, I knew she was taking it all in. Learning how muffins were made and that we have to be patient for them to get done were instilling some life lessons beyond the kitchen. Often she would even sit on the counter as I made her a smoothie. She would drop ingredients in one by one. Now, she’s a little older and can really start to do even more in the kitchen with me which has been fun.
I know it can seem daunting to have little hands helping in the kitchen but the payoff, in the end, is so worth the extra time (and mess) having them helping can cause! There are so many reasons to have your kiddos in the kitchen with you when you’re making food. One reason is they are seeing that it takes effort for food to be made. Often kids are programmed to think food comes off a shelf and in a box. As they help in the kitchen, they are able to see how ingredients are used to make something. It teaches them that real food is achieved not by going to the grocery store but by using real ingredients to create something.
Also, getting kids in the kitchen early gets them hooked on how real, whole food tastes. Imagine if you were constantly fed homemade food. Your body would crave it and want more. You would love how flavors stood out and how fresh food tasted. When kids make food and are part of the process they are excited for what they make! They want to taste it and share it. The more they help the more hooked they’ll get on real food.
I love that my daughter doesn’t think to go buy a cookie but asks if we can make cookies. The act of making them is sure to be fun and entertaining in itself, and I am so proud that she wants to make something versus buy it. She knows now when she sees a cookie what has gone into making it.
One time my daughter was making pizza with me and asked what an artichoke was as we started to put them on the pizza. I shared with her what I knew. She willingly tried one and to my surprise, she liked it. I remember thinking that’s how it should be. She should want to try new foods and not be afraid of new flavors. I believe making her a part of the process has encouraged her adventurous spirit when it comes to food.
Yes, I said it- messes! I know if you’re a mom and reading this you understand. When littles are in the kitchen with us, small tasks end up taking twice as long. But the reality is, the more they are in there with us, the more they will pick up on things. My daughter now knows where to get the flours and spices. She pulls her chair up right next to me and puts on her apron- yes every little helper needs their own apron! Plus, all the help teaches them fine motor skills, measuring, counting, and creativity. I love the aspect of creativity it fosters especially. Food is meant to be enjoyed, and creativity is where it all starts.
One of the coolest aspects I’ve seen this year is having our own garden. My daughter helped plant the garden, water it and now has seen the fruit come from it. How awesome! Teaching her early where food comes from, and what’s in-season is important. I believe it’s all imprinting on her even in the smallest of ways. I always get some fresh mint and parsley for my smoothie. I love seeing her come with me and asking if she can pick it. She knows and loves the routine as much as I do.
I also believe inviting your kids in the kitchen and having them involved in meal prep can foster confidence in kids. When they are part of the process of cooking and baking and then see their efforts culminate into a dish that people enjoy, they are rewarded with gratifying praise and applause. Knowing they had a hand in creating a dish that their family will eat only helps encourage learning in the kitchen even more.
Lastly, I believe it breeds healthy conversations. I’ve noticed when cooking with my oldest, she is focused on a task but yet inquisitive at the same time. She wants to know why we’re putting certain ingredients together, why we wait for ingredients to activate, and how long we have to wait for it to cook. She’s taking it all in and with it comes great conversations and questions. Sometimes it will revolve around cooking and other times it might be a story that she remembers and wants to tell me. Either way, this mama loves the sweet chats we have over preparing food.
Do you find yourself in the kitchen often by yourself? Have you asked your kids to come help – start there and see what they think. It may surprise you. It can seem intimidating at first to have the kids in the kitchen with you, but the more they are a part of the process the easier it gets. The memories made and the learning that’s done will make it all worth it- promise!