Empowering children with cooking

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Do you sometimes find it difficult to get your child to sit down for meals?

Is it a struggle to convince him or her that vegetables are delicious and not at all lethal?

What if the solution was actually a fairly simple one?

Involving children in the preparation of meals may seem like a daunting task to any parent. It’s easy to focus on how much more difficult it would be to let them “help” rather than think of the perks. However, the benefits of allowing your child to assist you in the kitchen far outweigh the inconvenience. When children participate in the preparation of meals, they are more likely to be interested in sitting down for meals, to eat fruits and vegetables, to be healthy into adulthood.

Children who participate in the preparation and cooking of meals develop a vested interest in those meals. When a child is able to not only see the process but assist with it, they feel more connected and engaged and are more likely to eat the food. Something as simple as letting a child help wash vegetables is enough to create this interest. Depending on the age and skill level of the child, tasks can be as simple as spreading the ketchup on the meatloaf or adding the veggies to a bowl after you’ve chopped them. As a child grows and becomes more comfortable, the tasks gradually become more challenging. Over time, the child develops the skills he or she will need to eat healthy later in life.

Eating healthy is another benefit of allowing children to assist in the kitchen. Children who help their parents cook have a higher fruit and vegetable intake than those with no kitchen experience. Kids who help in the kitchen are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables and be less choosy about new foods. These behaviors set the foundation for lifelong health and children will grow up to be competent in the kitchen.

You don’t have to be a culinary master to empower your children with cooking. Even getting them involved once per week will make a big difference in the way they view mealtimes. It takes a little patience and some consistency but it’s very worth it in the long run.

•••

Lenna Ahlers, RDN, LD, is a WIC dietitian at Panhandle Health District and a graduate of the University of Idaho Dietetic program.

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