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Teaching Kids with Teaspoons

As temperatures rise and summer breaks near, parents are tasked with occupying their kids’ newly abundant free time both indoors and outdoors. Cooking is a fun and productive use of that extra time no longer occupied with school and after-school activities – especially on rainy days. Involving your kids in meal prep will get them excited about the food they eat, teach them about well-balanced diets and encourage some quality family time.

Like other summer activities, parental coaching and supervision are required ingredients when cooking with kids. Depending on your helpers’ age, interest and, of course, attention-span, there are ways all kids can assist in the kitchen, so parents should be aware of what responsibilities their children can or want to undertake. No matter what the role, kids will love being a part of this fun family experience and parents will love the help!

“Menu planning and preparation is a great activity to share with the kids,” commented Joan Hanson, test kitchen director, Hormel Foods. “And, kids are more likely to eat what they help plan and make, which also creates a way to incorporate healthy fare into the family’s diet.”

When teaching the tots to cook, get creative with your techniques. Hanson offers a few helpful tips for parents cooking with kids:

  • Measure ingredients. While measuring, add some math skills. For example, which is larger: ¼ cup or ½ cup? How many teaspoons are in a tablespoon?
  • Assign tasks. Dole out tasks such as stirring the spaghetti sauce, mashing the potatoes, greasing pans, layering sandwiches or adding toppings to a pizza to give ownership to the child. This is particularly helpful if you have a picky eater.
  • Stock up. Try to have kid-friendly kitchen tools on-hand, such as plastic bowls that won’t break if dropped.
  • Be health-conscious: Remind kids that meat provides protein which helps build strong muscles and that milk, yogurt and cheese provide calcium for strong bones and teeth.