Kids in the Kitchen (6 ways to get them involved)

11 Nov

I am lucky in that my son is healthy and bright and a regular kid in most ways.

I am not lucky, as in: “You are lucky your son eats so well.”

Planting garlic (photo by Marianne Goralski)

In the food department, my son does eat quite well, but my “luck” is — as much of what we call luck is — the result of a lot of effort.

It’s not just that I cook and that I come from a family that has always cooked and eaten well. There are a number of things I do to get Leandro involved in the kitchen and in the food he eats; it doesn’t always lead to direct consumption of say, raw carrots, but over time it has made him a kid who knows where his food comes from and who is willing to give things a try. So I thought I’d share a few with you!

Out here in the fields, I fight for my meals; I put my back into my living…(photo by Marianne Goralski)

1. Spin Cycle

My kids still won’t eat raw vegetables or salad stuff, but he does love the salad spinner. Can your little person have a go at the spinner? Eventually he/she will try the contents.

2. Smash Hits

Channeling energy into freezer pesto

Channel a little boy’s desire to destroy stuff and put a pestle in his hand. Leandro loves to make pesto by hand, or smash the seasonings for a spice rub or paste in our mortar and pestle. Important point: our mortar and pestle is made of heavy Italian marble, so it is not going to slide around.

Also, why not let your child pound chicken breasts for cutlets or chicken tenders? I put a layer or two of wax paper between the kitchen mallet and the chicken and let him have at it. It keeps him busy while I am cooking and actually helps me get things done faster.

3. PlayDoh

Who needs play-doh when you have edible toys?

What is ground beef but Play-Doh with a purpose?

It is never too early to teach a kid to cook.

Leandro makes the meatballs around here these days. Great for the fine motor skills, great for togetherness, great for kitchen efficiency. They may not all end up the same size, but does that really matter?

4. Grow Together

Look what I grew!

There is nothing, nothing, nothing, like digging in the dirt with your child and pulling up vegetables.

Learning to get the nectar from a honeysuckle at Restoration Farm.

Between the community-supported agriculture gardens that we have belonged to since before he was born (I can still remember the period of time that I was trying to get pregnant, sitting quietly in the garden farm, pulling weeds, and thinking fertile thoughts), and the increasing numbers of vegetables we are growing in our backyard, my son really knows where food comes from. And thanks to this, even though there are still loads of fresh vegetables he won’t eat, he WILL eat peas off the vine, kale, spinach, chard, as a direct result of being on the farm. This weekend we helped plant garlic at Restoration Farm; this time, ironically enough, I was helping little Ada plant her row; big Leandro didn’t need me because he was planting bulbs all by his farmer-boy self with the big people.

Know thy dinner: Leandro learns about the food chain firsthand.

He has also gotten to know chickens on the farm. Funnily enough, he will make friends with the laying hens, but won’t even talk to the chickens that will be eaten. The fact that he is going to eat them doesn’t bother him otherwise, though. He is very comfortable at the top of the food chain.

5. Aw Shucks

Discoveries with corn

Shucking corn is an easy job and loads of fun. Corn silk is inherently messy (I try to have the kids do it outside), so they can’t be blamed when it gets everywhere. And once they’ve shucked their own, it is very likely that they will eat it, without the need to smother it in butter.

Everyone has responsibilities when it comes to a proper BBQ

6. Tips for baking

To make a revolution, you have to break some eggs…

Baking with kids is a pretty obvious thing to do. Kids love the results and they are willing to work for them. So a few tips for making it successful.

a. Stick to recipes that don’t have loads of ingredients in small amounts. You might like Blueberry Muffins, Blueberry Pound Cake,  or Banana Bread.

b. Set out all the ingredients before you call them to the workspace (pre-measure for younger kids). Do not mess yourself up by not having everything set out and ready to go. Bad things can happen when you turn your back on children with cups of sugar and flour at their disposal.

The handy apple peeler makes short, exciting work of an apple crisp. And kids come to our house and request apples so they can use the peeler.

c. Let them break eggs. I keep it under control by holding the egg in my hand and letting him smack it with the side of a fork. Then I finish splitting the shell and getting the yolk and white into the bowl with minimal shell bits and mess.

d. Use heavy bowls that won’t slide and short mixing spoons so they can keep better control.

e. Be patient. Remember that it is supposed to be a fun introduction to the kitchen, not culinary school.

I am sure many readers have other ways they get kids involved in the kitchen. I would love to hear them.

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12 Responses to “Kids in the Kitchen (6 ways to get them involved)”

  1. Florence November 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm #

    I wish you gave workshops for kids. I’d pay to get Mitike to eat a veggie. You are one of my heroines!

  2. Ashley November 12, 2012 at 9:54 pm #

    ^Compared to most kids, your son IS a food genius:) I love his enthusiasm for everything from cracking eggs to peeling apples.

  3. Mad Dog November 12, 2012 at 9:08 am #

    I think you are doing an amazing job, compared to some children I’ve met he’s almost not fussy at all and he’s learning things. All the effort you are making is paying off 😉

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 12, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

      I just re-watched the trailer for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution here in the U.S. (preparing for a unit I do with my students) and you know what? I am going to accept that compliment without any qualification, because compared to those kids, my son is a food genius.

  4. lucylox November 12, 2012 at 1:27 am #

    Fab ideas 🙂

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 12, 2012 at 5:41 am #

      Thanks, Lucy! I am trying! I can tell you though, the day he starts eating salad, my world will be transformed….keep your fingers crossed that it happens soon.

  5. School Bites (@school_bites) November 12, 2012 at 12:09 am #

    Great story! Your son is beautiful! As I think you know, I’ve been trying to cook more with my three as well. I think it also helps to have a few groundrules and to talk about them before starting each and every time….such as, always ask before touching something! Oh, and you have to wash your hands first. 🙂

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 12, 2012 at 5:42 am #

      I can definitely see the challenges of working with three at the the same time…just with my one I have to keep those eyes in the back of my head wide open…

  6. Tammy November 11, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    I enjoyed this post so much. Thank you. I enjoy the way you and your son interact in the kitchen and you’re an inspiration to all.

    • Natalia at Hot, Cheap & Easy November 12, 2012 at 5:43 am #

      Thanks Tammy. It sometimes feels like the world is up against healthy eating kids, so it is great to get some support…

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