We’ve written about what to do when your child won’t eat, but one thing we wanted to focus on in more depth was how getting them involved in the process of cooking may boost their interest in eating new foods. When toddlers can help and learn what goes into preparing food, they will be more likely to eat it (typically, though not always).
Not sure where to start cooking with your toddler or preschooler? No problem! Our Greenville, NC child care center is sharing some tips that make cooking with small children simple and fun.
For toddlers and preschoolers, you probably don’t want to start them out with peeling potatoes and chopping onions, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help in other ways. Pouring measured ingredients into the mixing bowl, tearing lettuce for salads, adding chopped veggies to a pan, and of course, stirring and mixing, are all perfect ways to get them involved and work their way up to the more challenging tasks.
If you are doing something that they aren’t ready for like cooking over a hot pan, you can still get them involved, talking about what they see, hear, or smell. “I added the chicken to the pan, can you hear it sizzle?” or “What color are the peppers I’m chopping?”
Because you’re going to be watching little hands and guiding them, it’s best to go with a recipe you’re familiar with so you’re not trying to bounce back and forth between your phone or a cookbook, the ingredients, and your child. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try new recipes, just maybe give them a few tries before bringing your child over to help put them together so it will be easier for you both.
Cooking can often mean getting the flour out of the pantry, then going back to the pantry for salt, then the refrigerator for the chicken, then getting the spatula out of the dishwasher. If your toddler is helping you during this time, most likely while you’re in the pantry, they are in the flour bag making an epic mess.
To minimize the mess and stress, get all your ingredients and tools out on your prep space, and if you want, take the next step and measure out the ingredients in separate cups, spoons, etc. By giving yourself time to prepare so you aren’t running around the kitchen, you’re able to focus with your toddler or preschooler, and guide them through the process. It will be much more organized and a lot more fun.
If you go from dinner to the bedtime routine, your toddler or preschooler may be already getting a bit tired while you’re cooking. A tired (possibly grumpy) little one may not want to help in the kitchen or want anything to do with what you’re cooking or they may be more likely to get upset during the process. Instead of dinner, breakfast or lunch may be the better options for cooking with your kids. It’s often a less hectic time of day, they may be less tired, and again, it’s all about having fun, encouraging healthy food attitudes, and learning new things, so you can choose the right time that they’ll have the best experience.
Adding shredded cheese to the top of spaghetti or adding berries to their oatmeal may not seem very exciting, but for small children, these little flourishes are a very big deal. Letting your child customize their snacks or meals empowers them to have a say in what they are eating which is important at this age when they are working out their independence. Also, it’s fun, especially when it’s something brightly colored or that adds a contrast to the dish.
At Children’s Campus in Greenville, we are dedicated to fostering healthy children and good nutrition by providing balanced meals and snacks and nurturing a healthy mindset about food in addition to turning everyday moments into fun learning experiences. After all, children learn best through play in a nurturing and supportive environment. To learn more about our 5-star child care center and schedule a tour, give us a call at (252) 756-8200 or fill out the form below!