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.”
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!
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
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.
What is ground beef but Play-Doh with a purpose?
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
There is nothing, nothing, nothing, like digging in the dirt with your child and pulling up vegetables.
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.
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
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.
6. Tips for baking
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.
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.
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.