When you as a parent are the only person “controlling” your family’s food—choosing foods, planning menus, cooking meals, organizing snacks, deciding what food comes into the house—you will have a very difficult time getting them to change the way they eat. Instead, create an environment in which kids feel empowered to make decisions about how they eat because they are involved. Here’s how.
Let Your Kids into the Kitchen
Yep, they’re going to make a mess. Depending on their ages, they may make a big mess. But when they start eating differently, you’ll realize that it’s oh-so-worth-it. You know your own child better than anyone, and you understand what he or she is capable of; below are some examples of tasks your kids may be able to do, depending on their ages and abilities. If you have more than one child helping, break the recipe down into tasks for each young cook so that everyone has something to do. The more active they are, the more fun it will be.
Kids can help:
- Plan the menu for the day using our recipes, and create a shopping list.
- Gather and organize ingredients and utensils for a meal or snack.
- Read the steps of the recipe out loud.
- Measure, pour, sift, stir, whisk, mash, and grate ingredients.
- Wash and dry fruits, vegetables, herbs, and greens. (I recommend using a salad spinner.)
- Slice berries and other soft items with a plastic knife. Older kids who can use sharper utensils safely can peel and chop veggies like carrots and cucumbers.
- Use blenders, mixers, food processors, or other small appliances.
- Preheat the oven.
- Monitor cooking or baking times; reduce or raise heat; keep food from burning; use a kitchen thermometer.
- Assemble sandwiches; toss salads; serve and garnish foods; pour smoothies or other drinks.
- Set the table, decorate for special meals, and call the family to the table for a meal; older siblings can make sure young ones have clean hands.
For a fun, practical, and proven guide to raising healthy eaters and transforming the way your family eats, learn more about Appetite for Life by Stacey Antine, founder and CEO of HealthBarn USA.