If the food choices of your children are limited to macaroni and cheese, hot dogs and chicken nuggets, maybe it is time to get them into the kitchen and involve them in cooking. Most parents wish their children would eat more vegetables. This is your opportunity to improve their intake, because the simple fact is that kids who cook become better eaters.
Cooking also helps to build self-esteem, confidence and skills of independence. Most kids feel proud and important when they are in the kitchen helping to prepare food. Helping out with family tasks increases their feeling of belonging in the family. Cooking also teaches math, reading and science skills. For best results, the recipe needs to be read and followed. Talk with your child about what is happening and what you are doing with the food.
When your child uses his or her hands to help in the kitchen they are developing small muscle skills. Remember that your kids don’t have the same muscle coordination and skills that you do and they will probably make a mess, but that’s OK because the cleanup teaches responsibility.
Last, but certainly not least spending time in the kitchen with your child gives you the opportunity to create closer bonds and lifelong memories. It is also a chance to talk with your child and hear about what is going on in their life.
Kitchen safety rules and important points to remember
• Cooks of all ages wash their hands before cooking.
• Fasten hair back if it is long — you don’t want it getting caught in appliances or falling in the food.
• Expect spills and messes.
• Encourage children to wait until the dish is done before sampling to help prevent foodborne illness from uncooked ingredients.
• Taste with a clean spoon. Dirty spoons go in the sink, not back in the food product.
• Children have short attention spans. Give them quick, simple jobs, appropriate for their age.
• Children get excited and forget. Give them instructions one at a time and repeat often.
• Young cooks need constant supervision especially around hot surfaces, utensils and sharp objects.
• Keep raw and cooked foods separate.
• Cook food to the proper temperature.
• Refrigerate perishable food quickly.
“Work It Out” Cookies
Packed brown sugar
All cooks need to wash their hands. Give each child a bowl and have available all the ingredients listed. Let each child measure 1 cup oatmeal, ½ cup brown sugar, ½ cup butter, ½ cup of flour, ½ teaspoon of cinnamon and ½ teaspoon of baking soda into their bowl.
Encourage them to mash, knead and squeeze using their hands until there aren’t any lumps of butter left. Add ½ cup of raisins if desired and then form into small balls and put on an ungreased cookie sheet. Have each child press their cookie down with their hand. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on cookie rack.
Georgia Clark-Albert is a registered dietitian and adjunct nutrition instructor at Eastern Maine Community College who lives in Athens. Read more of her columns and post questions at bangordailynews.com or email her at GeorgiaMaineMSRDCDE@gmail.com.