It is never too early, or too late to encourage your little ones to join you in the kitchen. Including them even just once a week, whilst it may take longer (and possibly be slightly messier) reaps benefits that far outweigh the negatives.
The idea that food is more than simply just nutrition is a concept that can, and should, be introduced to children. The process of selecting, making and enjoying food fosters curiosity and allows children to learn and gain skills in the kitchen. This, in turn, helps create healthy attitudes toward food and can help to combat what we perceive as ‘fussiness’.
Here are some of the positives to sharing the food preparation process with your kids:
- A kitchen is almost like a real-life science lab that lets learning happen! Mixing, measuring, pouring, freezing, baking and being together in the kitchen brings to light many different creative learning concepts. It can help open up the dialogue on different ingredients, what they can be used for, what our bodies use the nutrients in the foods for, and much more.
- Food prep fosters creativity and independence. By allowing your child to express their innate creativity in the kitchen or dining room, adding their own touch to recipes, food presentation or setting the table, you give them autonomy and ownership over parts of the meal. This can then make for fewer battles at meal time. Chopping, mixing, pouring, squeezing, peeling, grating, dicing etc all require a level of skill. By making it safe for a child to practice these skills, we are not only empowering them and increasing their confidence, we are also building on their fine motor skills.
- Connecting with children before/after being apart for schooling or child care (which is the norm for most) helps to build our relationships and is a great way to spend quality time. If you have multiple children, giving them each a role can help to create connection between them and will foster communication skills that will be valuable throughout life.
- Learning about health and the role that food plays. Discussions around health can easily be opened up during food prep. When cooking from scratch, we can delve into taste and the individual components of the food. This can be as basic or in-depth as you make it. Some examples could be - talking about the fibre content of dates whilst making bliss balls, their sweet taste and why, because of this, no added sugar is needed. Or explaining why fibre is important for our gut, and how the bitterness of lemon helps us to digest our food can be simple, but interesting talking points. If questions are raised that you can’t answer, take the time to research. This is a learning journey for all involved and it can be really humbling for a child to see that their parent or carer is also learning with them.
- Improving acceptance of new foods (this is the big one!). Through the sensory experience of being in a kitchen, a child can learn to love a food they maybe hadn’t enjoyed in the past, or, try a new one they were hesitant about. When your child helps to make a dish, they are generally more willing to try the food than when you just serve it to them. Involving them in the process from start to finish is even more empowering, e.g selecting a meal, buying the ingredients at the shop or market and then preparing the meal. Talk about new ingredients you’re using in a recipe, what they look like, how they’re grown, how they have to be prepared, their taste, smell and what kind of nutrition they provide for your body.
So with all of that said, here is a quick and easy recipe that can be prepared together, perfect for packing in a lunchbox. This recipe involved grating, pouring, melting, cracking, baking and mixing and there can be some great conversations to have about the perhaps “strange” combination of savoury and sweet ingredients.
(makes approximately 12 muffins)
- 3/4 cup pepitas
- 1/3 cup coconut oil or olive oil
- 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
- 2 eggs (room temperature)
- 2/3 milk of choice
- 1 3/4 cups SR flour - or - flour of choice (SR makes them fluffy)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/2 cups of grated zucchini (you can split this in half and do half zucchini and half carrot)
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and grease or line a muffin tray
- Combine oil and sweetener of choice in a bowl then add the milk
- Combine all dry ingredients
- Add grated zucchini to dry ingredients
- Stir through the oil, sweetener and milk mixture
- Pour mixture into muffin tins
- Bake for 20 minutes, or until beginning to go golden. You can test if they are ready by inserting a skewer to see if it comes out clean
- Will store for 3 months in a freezer
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