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Cooking with Kids

Many of my fondest childhood memories are of the time spent in my grandparent’s kitchen. Whether it was only my grandparents or several family members converging in the kitchen, great memories have been built around cooking with family.

I am truly grateful for the time I was able to spend with my grandmothers’ in the kitchen, watching, helping, and learning from them. I was the oldest of 12 grandchildren split among both sides of my family. I believe I was the luckiest grandchild because I was able to get the most active years from my family. I saw my grandmother’s backyard when it was over an acre of fruits and vegetables that we used in her kitchen. Today the house is gone. I picked and cut apricots with my grandmother that we turned into jam, pies, bars, and dried. Today the orchards are no longer there and tiki taki condos and strip malls stand in their place. I helped both women put together giant holiday feasts, cooking together for days at a time. Today holidays are no longer a “main event” and the kitchen remains “closed” until the day of when already prepared dishes arrive at
their tables.

A majority of people spend at a minimum 40 hours a week apart from their families. Then factor in overtime, commutes, chores, errands, other family & personal commitments, and after school activities. As our daily commitment list grows, less and less valuable family time is spent together and we start to become…disconnected, living more like roommates than family; passing hellos in the hallway, meals eaten running out the door or driving in the car.  We’ve become comfortable with convenience/ready to serve/on the go everything. Before we know it we’ve missed so many important life moments because we didn’t stop and take the time.  It is so easy to get caught up in the day to
day and push aside what’s most important. Since having my son, I get a daily
reminder of the importance my presence is to him and to my family.

I think back on my childhood memories that were created in the kitchen, at the table, and I realize I must try and provide these memories for my son and for the sake of my family.  Cooking and enjoying a meal together can be
the greatest time spent together, especially for children.  Besides spending precious time together, cooking with children presents so many learning opportunities for them.  It helps in confidence building, developing independent
skills, creative expression, reading development, social development, cultural
exposure, and science concepts.  They are learning about nutrition and developing a willingness to try new foods.

I realize not every evening can be spent cooking together given our tedious daily schedules but when an opportunity presents itself…take it!  When my husband and I were both working full time and going to school full time, dinners together were few and far during the week.  We took advantage of the weekend and turned menu planning, farmers market visits, and a whole day of cooking for the next week…an adventure!  I believe it brought us closer together…after 16 years, we still love cooking together and creating new things.  Now that we have our son we’re trying to share those same adventures and learning experiences with him.

My son is still a little guy so having him physically help me in the kitchen while cooking wouldn’t be the wisest thing.  What I can do is have him
with me so he can see what I’m doing.  I share with him the fruits and vegetables, letting him see, touch, and smell each item.  Some foods he loves
immediately and wants to put it in his mouth right away and some foods take a
lot of time.  According to his pediatrician, children need to be exposed to a new food as many as 10 to 15 times before they are willing to try it.  Forcing them will
only attach a negative stigma to eating that particular food.  Since my son was able to eat solid foods, we’ve given him every organic fruit and vegetable that has been in season and every type of pasture raised organic meat that is available in our area.  Just as his pediatrician stated, some foods took time but with patience and consistency he devours almost everything we present him with.

I love cooking with children because they are so curious.  They see and smell
to the fullest.  Everything is so new and interesting.  A couple weekends ago a good friend from high school came to visit with her beautiful 7 year old daughter.  The agenda for the day was food food food!  We made an apple pie and canned some blueberry lemon jam. For the pie, I had her daughter help measure the ingredients for the crust and peel and core the apples.  For the jam, she helped cook the berries (with my supervision).  She had so many
questions and she wanted to touch, smell, and taste everything she handled that
day.   By spending time with her that day, we were able to help her develop new skills, try new foods she’d never tried before, and she got to do it all while spending time with her mom…laughing, playing, joking…having fun.

I’ve been on a quest to bring back basic skills into my family’s lifestyle.
Spending the time to cook a whole meal together, from scratch, is just
the first step of many.  I hope my son will carry these memories with him forever and that he’ll be able to pass them on to his own children…

Cooking with Children Resources:

PBSCooking with Kids

Playing Kitchen

Cooking with Kids

MommyMe – The Wonder Years – I found this post today about cooking with kids and believe the mom did a wonderful job of breaking down the process…especially knowing that cooking with kids will also bring a lot of messes and possibly a little chaos.  With some basic preparation and a little patience, you’re ready to roll!

Benefits of Cooking with your Children (webmd.com):

  • Reducing the number of meals eaten
    outside the home
  • Having structured times for family
    meals
  • Offering healthier, low-calorie
    foods
  • Involving children in meal planning,
    shopping, and food preparation.
  • Encourages kids to try healthy foods
  • Kids feel like they are
    accomplishing something and contributing to the family
  • Kids are more likely to sit down to
    a family meal when they helped prepare it
  • Parents get to spend quality time
    with their kids
  • Kids aren’t spending time in front
    of the TV or computer while they’re cooking
  • Kids generally aren’t eating junk
    food when they’re cooking a meal at home.
  • Learning to cook is a skill your
    children can use for the rest of their lives
  • Kids who learn to eat well may be
    more likely to eat healthfully as adults
  • Positive cooking experiences can
    help build self-confidence
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