I have always loved being in the kitchen. Many a childhood afternoon was spent standing on a stool at our bright orange countertops talking to my audience (the wall), as I hosted my own television cooking show. Though my menu options were quite limited (it alternated between chocolate chip cookies or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches), my family never complained about taste testing — except for the time I tried to make “egg drop soup.” I’ve always been grateful for the autonomy that my parents gave me when it came to packing my own lunch (but I must admit that a little more oversight could have been beneficial…).
Fast forward 20 years and I’ve found a new audience and assistant in my little girl. From the time she could balance on a stool she’s loved helping me in the kitchen. Though as any parent who has ever accepted their child’s “help” knows, that’s a generous term. When you prepare food with children things take much longer, tend to get messier, and on occasion taste a bit funnier. But I’m excited about the chance to encourage her independence and build confidence when choosing foods for herself. It’s a chance to talk about slow versus fast food and being mindful of what we put in our bodies — not to mention the sense of pride and accomplishment she feels when she’s enjoying a meal that we packed together in a fun, new environment.
Now that our little one is stronger (and always hungry), she can open the fridge or freezer and help herself to a few snacks we keep just for her in the door. And when we go out for a weekday adventure, we always pack a lunch together.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when preparing food with kiddos:
- Get a sturdy step stool and a special lunch box just for them.
- Set aside a little more time to allot for slower preparations.
- Utilize this time to introduce maybe a more exotic fruit or vegetable. I find that trying new foods in a new environment can be extra appealing.
- Embrace the mess.
- Take this opportunity to teach them more and make it personal, like “carrots are really good for your eyes” or “raspberry jam is Grandma’s favorite.”
- Rather than asking “what do you want for lunch?” I find it helpful to give her the choice between two things: apples or carrots, raspberry jam or strawberry jam? This gives her the autonomy of making a choice without overwhelming her.
- And of course preparing food together is also a perfect time to practice counting or adding.
So whip out that lunch box and be off to your next adventure!More On