01 Feb Especially for Parents: Little Chefs, Big Benefits
Sundays are cooking days at our house. My husband loves to use the weekend as an excuse to simmer, roast or slow cook. With weeknight mealtimes often feeling a bit chaotic (serious understatement), we both relish the opportunity to slow down a bit. And mostly thanks to him, the results are usually pretty tasty.
But what I have come to love even more than the food is the opportunity to watch our 3-year-old in the kitchen. He is the ultimate helper. Loving to get involved, he is constantly asking me what jobs he can do. On busy weeknights, when there are onions to chop and tantrums to sooth, I sometimes find myself rushing through things on my own. My desire to include him butts up against my desire to get the food on the table before our 16-month-old implodes. But on the weekends, when things slow down, we make a point to find ways for him to help.
This often involves stirring, measuring, scooping, spilling (!) and pouring. And always, without fail, it involves several requests to taste each ingredient as it goes in. Even the baking soda – ew! That simple act of tasting is actually an incredibly important step in developing healthy eating habits. Tasting exposes kids to different flavors and textures, making them more likely to grow up as balanced eaters. For my son, there are times when he will taste something as we cook it, only to reject it once it is on his plate. But that’s ok with me, because I know that those little tastes build up to a lot of exposure over time.
Last Sunday, I walked into the kitchen and saw his face beaming with pride. He and his dad were making pasta, and my littlest chef had chopped all the (soft) cheese on his own. With a butter knife. It was the most excited I have seen him in the kitchen. He felt a sense of accomplishment, knowing that he had done it all on his own. And when the time came to eat, he couldn’t wait to tell his cousins all about “his” pasta.
It was a good reminder to me that with just a little adjustment, kids can do many things alongside us in the kitchen. There are age appropriate ways to get all kids involved and help them grow their skills as they get older. The pride they feel in working alongside us helps them to develop confidence, coordination and patience – and as a bonus, the results are delicious.
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