One of my favourite school holiday activities is to cook with my kids. Not only does it stave off boredom but it also helps fill my freezer with delicious snacks that can be enjoyed by friends and family.
During the holidays my kids aren’t in the mood to snack on the same types of foods in their lunch boxes, they turn into little snack monsters craving sweet ‘sometimes’ foods – and I am totally on board with that as holidays are a time to let loose and enjoy some of the sweeter things in life.
Not only is cooking with kids fun, it also helps your child to:
- Develop fine motor skills
- Learn about nutrition
- Help with desensitisation
- Increase food appreciation
- Develop vocabulary
- Develop self-esteem
- Encourage learning about maths
I have also found cooking with my children to be a great way to combine play with the daily routine of preparing meals – especially when we have more time on our hands without the school rush.
The rule in my kitchen is that once the food is prepared we all have to taste it, but no one is forced to eat it if they don’t want to. Because they feel safe and there are no expectations, my kids are always eager to cook with me.
Why does this work for fussy eaters?
For the fussy eaters I see in my practice, preparing meals together is an essential part of their journey towards healthy eating. When cooking with my son, it always surprises me how adventurous he’ll be to taste new foods when he has his chef’s apron on.
Children learn to accept new foods through role modelling, repetition and exposure and there is no better way to expose children to a variety of ingredients than by choosing a recipe that you and your child would like to prepare together. Children love to eat what they’ve helped to make. Give it a try!
If your child is going through a fussy eating phase, give yourself peace of mind while trying to increase their repertoire by boosting the foods they'll eat with wholesome ingredients that are hard to detect. For example, frozen cauliflower works a treat in smoothies! My Wholesome Child+ booster range is perfect to help get more nutrition into your kids to help them be their best - and the good news is many of the ways to use these products require no extra cooking or meal prep. Simple add, mix in or sprinkle on top!
How to make cooking with kids happen in your house
- Make sure you have kid-friendly cooking utensils (outlined below)
- Get your child to help you make a list of ingredients for your meal – they can either write the words or draw pictures
- Go to the grocery store or select the ingredients online together – allow your child to pick the items off the shelves or unpack the box when it’s delivered
- If possible, grow your own veggies and herbs – even a few small pot plants with herbs on the windowsill is a good way to continue exposing your child to different foods, where they come from, etc.
Your child can help with:
- Measuring – this is a great opportunity for them to use their developing reading and math skills
- Cutting – snipping herbs with child-friendly scissors is a great place to start
- Chopping – using a small child-friendly knife, teach your child to form his other hand into a claw to keep fingertips out of danger and always supervise
- Grating – use a standing grater with a handle and keep watch to ensure your child’s fingers don’t get too close to the grater
- Folding – show them how to fold an egg white into a cake mixture
- Greasing a cake tin or tray with butter or lining with wax paper
- Peeling – teach them to peel hard-boiled eggs with their fingers, they may also try vegetable peelers but always keep watch
- Setting the dinner table – further engage your child in family mealtimes and hand over this responsibility to them
For some of my favourite holiday snack recipes, check out the 4 Ingredient Snack Pack.
Kid-friendly kitchen items
✓ a sturdy stepping stool
✓ an apron and oven gloves (always supervise when dealing with anything hot)
✓ wooden spoons
✓ metal or silicone measuring spoons and cups (glass ones can break) - check out my favourite Wholesome Child Booster spoons here.
✓ egg separator
✓ vegetable peeler
✓ small rolling pin
✓ kid-friendly knife and fork
✓ kid-friendly scissors
✓ cookie cutters in different shapes
✓ a set of small bowls
✓ mini muffin pans
✓ salad spinners
✓ cheese grater
✓ knife designed for young cooks or small adult knife (recommended from age 4 or 5)
Always practice safety in the kitchen
- Ensure all possible hazards are out of reach from young hands, turn pot handles in and sharp knives should be out of reach
- Never allow children to handle hot food or liquids, sharp utensils, or cleaning products
- Ensure that children wash hands before they start cooking and afterwards, as raw food like eggs, meat or fish can contain harmful bacteria
Use the sink as an area to do food prep in (especially when mixing or blending with a stick blender) to make the clean up so much easier!