Monday, June 15, 2009

Involving Kids in the Kitchen: A Developmental Perspective

Involving children in the kitchen from an early age can help them develop a healthy relationship with food and feel comfortable in the kitchen. I speak with many mothers who care about their children’s nutritional health and want to make healthy, home-cooked meals for their families, but feel overwhelmed and inadequate in the kitchen now as adults because they never learned how to find their way around the kitchen as children. It’s important to always keep in mind physical safety, food safety, and the child’s developmental capabilities when designing helping tasks for children in the kitchen. It’s also important to be realistic about involving children with cooking. You don’t have to include your children in the preparation process for every meal. They may not necessarily be able to offer help that you can rely upon and their help may slow the process, but think of yourself as both training today’s helper as tomorrow’s cook and as improving their chances of developing good eating habits. If you try to keep cooking fun and not make it a chore, you’ll likely get more enthusiastic participation from your kids.

The list below contains suggestions for cooking activities to be used as general guidelines. You know your children best and what their ability levels are. This list is not exhaustive, but it will give you a place to start and may spark some ideas of your own.

2 year olds
· Help set the table
· Help select fruits and vegetables when shopping
· Look at recipe books together and select things to make
· Rinse fruits and vegetables at the sink
· Tear lettuce
· Arrange frozen potatoes on a pan
· Stir and mix ingredients
· Brush vegetables with olive oil with a pastry brush before roasting

3 and 4 year olds
· All of the above plus…
· Squeeze and juice lemons and limes
· Knead and shape dough
· Count items (e.g., carrots, olives, grape tomatoes for a salad)
· Cut soft foods (e.g., bananas, strawberries, butter) with a plastic knife
· Use a salad spinner
· Push buttons on a blender or food processor (supervised)
· Pour or add measured ingredients to bowls

5 to 8 year olds
· All of the above plus…
· Measure ingredients
· Crack eggs (I recommend having them crack eggs into a separate bowl in case they leave
· Beat eggs
· Mix and form hamburgers, meatballs, meatloaf
· Scub potatoes and other vegetables with a vegetable scrubber
· Snap ends off green beans and asparagus
· Make a salad

9 to 12 year olds
· All of the above plus…
· Making scrambled eggs
· Baking (may require some supervision with using oven)
· Follow simple recipes on their own
· Cut using a regular knife – with training and supervision as needed
· Stir at the stove – with training and supervision as needed

Copyright 2009 Kathleen Cuneo, Ph.D., Dinner Together, LLC

1 comment:

  1. This is a great list! I have one similar here: I will have to check my list and maybe link to yours from it :-)

    I love that you are encouraging families to cook together!


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