A parent may feel like preparing fast and easy meals in the kitchen free of hassles and interruptions, especially on busy work days. But, there are many benefits to including children in the kitchen during meal preparation. Studies have shown that children that are involved in growing, selecting during grocery shopping, and preparing foods are more likely to want to try them. This is especially important when introducing new foods and healthy foods. Most children are natural helpers and want to help their parents/caregivers with fun and simple tasks. As long as the tasks assigned are age-appropriate, children of any age can help in the kitchen. For very young children, ask them to stir, pour, shake, and tear. For slightly older children, ask them to spread, mix, and knead. For even older children, ask them to cut, grate, and measure. Preschoolers can practice small muscle skills. They can learn responsibility by cleaning up after themselves. Math is included with counting and measuring. Science is included with how foods change. And, reading is included with what cooking terms and symbols mean. Older teenagers learn critical skills to being on their own in a few years. It is important to remember that cooking with children can be messy and unpredictable, but it is also a chance for creativity and learning.
The FoodWIse program recently partnered with ADVOCAP Head Start to host two parent/child cooking events in Fond du Lac and Markesan, which introduced parents to the benefits of cooking with children. Using the Healthy Feeding for Healthy Eating curriculum, parents discussed how to be good role models when it comes to healthy foods and trying new foods. Head Start children and parents worked together in the kitchen to make veggie faces and banana sushi rolls. These are very popular events for FoodWIse and parents usually have positive feedback about the experience, especially the quality time spent with their Head Start children doing something fun and eating together!