Cooking with kids can be a challenge. It’s messier, it’s slower, and often times can try your patience as a parent. Kids healthy cooking can be even more of a challenge with your little munchkins palates changing and developing, being sensitive to textures, smells and levels of salt and sweetness. One day they like a certain food and all of a sudden the next day they don’t? Even with these challenges, there are many benefits to getting little ones into the kitchen at a young age, benefits that will set a foundation for their eating and nutrition choices for life. And these benefits will outweigh the extra time and patience you have to spend in the kitchen.
For little hands, time in the kitchen allows them to build basic skills, explore with their senses and create an adventurous palate! You can introduce healthy foods in a fun and unique way that will get them eating and enjoying it. Kids are also more likely to eat what they have made and it creates a foundation for them later in life – when they’re older in college and can actually cook. Not only that, but it creates a great opportunity for you and your child to spend some quality time together, learning and creating together, even having a little fun.
I recently started teaching a preschool class at the Trico Center called Mini Chefs and it is one of my favorite classes. You may think that cooking with a preschooler would be difficult, but when you choose recipes that are simple, easy and appropriate for their age, it is actually a lot of fun. I love how excited the kids are each week, curious about what we are making and what is in it.
One of the keys to making kids healthy cooking successful (especially with preschoolers) is to pick something with less than 5 ingredients and things that they can do themselves, like scooping, mixing, tearing (lettuce). Most kids at this age love to help and get very excited about mixing things, or scooping out the flour. Yes you may have a little more flour on the floor but encouraging them and letting them do it, will make them want to do it again.
For our first class we created Yogurt Parfaits, which is a very easy, hands on recipe with 3 basic ingredients and lots of scooping and sprinkling. They all wondered what a yogurt parfait was, as even my children had not made one of these before. What was in it? How did we make it? When were we going to make it? The when question was the best. They are so keen at this age to get started!
This is why it is very advantageous and less stressful for you to prepare things in advance so that the cooking process goes more smoothly. For the parfaits, I had the yogurt already in a bowl with a spoon for scooping, the fruit cut and the granola in a bowl ready for scooping as well. Parfait glasses were in a stack ready for me to hand out as well as the spoons. This made it easier for each child to do what they could themselves, once I explained how we made the parfaits.
It was so fun to watch each child create their parfait, scooping in their yogurt (some with fairly large scoops and some very small), choosing their fruit, then scooping in some yogurt again. Each parfait was creative and unique, and honestly it was not that messy. Some kids had lots of yogurt in theirs and less fruit, some had a lot of both, while others just wanted the granola off the top. Either way they all had fun and all tried it, it was a new taste adventure for many of them.
Now my kids ask for yogurt and fruit all the time now and it makes a very healthy snack!
Fruit – pick your favorite! Blueberries, strawberries, banana, honeydew
Granola (store bought or make your own – you can also substitute large oats if desired)
In a bowl or cup place desired amount of yogurt. Then place fruit of choice on top, layer with yogurt then another layer of fruit. One more layer of yogurt and top with granola. Enjoy!
Next week… Tuna melts and Vegetable Flowers – who says vegetables can’t be fun!