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  • Brittany Shapiro

It’s Never Too Early to Get Your Kids Cooking in the Kitchen!



Most parents want the same thing when it comes to feeding their children: Get them to eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins and grains! It’s a universal desire, but it can seem almost impossible to accomplish.

Let me share my secret for achieving success (even if it happens in baby steps).

Take this scenario, from your child’s point of view:

Little Tommy shows up to the dinner table and finds a towering bowl of little green trees staring back at him. This does not resemble any of the foods he’s familiar with. The bright green color is different from the white foods he’s used to eating (chicken tenders, french fries and yogurt). You stare down at him as he contemplates this unfamiliar food. The pressure is on! Tommy breaks down in tears...

Of course, all you wanted to do was introduce Tommy to new and nutritious foods. But that’s not how Tommy understood what was happening.

Now let’s back up a week and recreate this scenario with a different approach:

Imagine you start by reading Tommy a book about broccoli (shout-out to one of my favorite picky eating books “The Boy Who Loved Broccoli”). A few days later you and Tommy go to the grocery store and go on a scavenger hunt to find some broccoli. In fact, you even ask Tommy if he wants to buy cauliflower or broccoli and he made the choice himself! The next afternoon you and Tommy go into the kitchen and separate the big head of broccoli into small florets (Tommy had to use his muscles to break them up which was hard work). You put the broccoli florets into a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper and Tommy mixed it all together with his hands. This was messy, but fun! You put the broccoli in the oven to roast while Tommy goes off to play. It is finally time to eat dinner. You know Tommy will be hesitant to try the broccoli, so you want to be sensitive. Together with Tommy’s favorite chicken nuggets and french fries, you include one broccoli floret. Over dinner, you and Tommy reminisce about the broccoli book, grocery store scavenger hunt and cooking activity. Tommy gobbles up his chicken nuggets and french fries and then turns to his broccoli and finally decides to explore it!

Exposing children to new foods before they arrive at the table is one of the keys to convincing them to actually eat things like broccoli and other nutritious fruits and vegetables and proteins. This process is not easy, and often messy, but it definitely pays off in the end (if only to avoid the tantrums when a new food shows up on their plates).

It is never too early to start involving your child in the kitchen (under supervision). Here are some ideas to get them cooking and having fun right from the start:

Infants:

· Observe parents cooking

· Play with utensils

· Touch ingredients

Toddlers:

· Wash fruits and vegetables

· Stir batter

· Tear vegetables

· Pour ingredients

· Mix batter

· Sprinkle herbs and spices

Young children:

· Peel fruit

· Crack eggs

· Spread condiments

· Cut with kitchen scissors

· Measure ingredients

· Use a rolling pin

Older children:

· Chop ingredients with a child’s knife

· Help you cook at the stove

· Read and follow a recipe

Don’t forget all the other ways kids can help out in the kitchen, including:

· Setting the table

· Washing dishes

· Putting dishes away

· Sweeping

· Unpacking groceries


Happy cooking!

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