Kids in the Kitchen: Start at Christmas and Keep it Going!
Spending time in the kitchen with children is much more than just making food. Preparing food together allows us to spend time with one another, converse without distractions and make a warranted mess. Cooking is also a wonderful way to engage young ones in simple math and reading lessons. For instance, counting how many liners you need in a muffin tray, understanding the difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon and learning simple fractions like what half or a quarter of a cup is. In addition, actions like stirring, chopping and pouring help to develop fine motor skills. Kids who help in the kitchen and are involved in food preparation are more likely to try the food they make and tend to eat more fruits and vegetables.
Work/life balance is already hard. It’s not practical to suggest that you can and want to rush home after a full day and jump into the kitchen with your kids to whip up a wonderful meal. You are not sure what you’re going to make for dinner, you don’t want the extra mess, and everyone is hungry already. So make a plan that you can manage. Maybe it’s every Sunday evening. Or maybe Sunday morning. Or maybe start to cook together once a month. Try to do the whole process with your children. Find a fun recipe, write out a grocery list, hit the grocery store and get them to help pick out all the ingredients. Then prepare and eat the meal together. Sharing the entire process from picking out a recipe to sitting down to eat together, also teaches understanding and respect for food and the care and preparation that goes into our meals.
The kitchen may seem like an unsafe place for a small child. Worries about sharp knives and hot pots are a quick reason to keep children out of the kitchen. But with planning and extra time, there are many simple and safe tasks children can be given when it comes to preparing food. With supervision, washing vegetables, placing ingredients in and then pushing buttons on a blender, stirring a mixture, mashing bananas or potatoes, measuring out ingredients and lining muffin tins with liners are the type of tasks small hands can manage. You can help children to play the part too - you can thrift affordable child-size versions of whisks, wooden spoons and aprons and even tiny chef’s hats they can wear when they are helping. This gives them a sense of pride and ownership in the kitchen instead of it being an ‘adults domain’. Including children in some of the most mundane tasks that we find boring, can be pretty exciting to them and breathes new life into every day cooking.
The holiday season is the perfect time to make your time in the kitchen intentional. Look at it as more than making food. Look at it as a learning experience that makes memories.
Michelle Kolobutin is the Community Nutrition Worker at the NorWest Community Health Centres. To find out more about their programs, including free cooking and nutrition demos, find them on Facebook at NorWest Community Health Centres or their website www.norwestchc.org
Overnight French Toast
Try this easy breakfast dish over the holiday season when you don’t have to rush to school in the morning!
one loaf of bread
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/3 maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place the eggs, milk, half-and-half, maple syrup and salt into a large bowl. Whisk the mixture until blended.
Place the sliced bread into a baking dish. Pour the mixture over the bread and press the slices into it. Cover the dish with foil and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the dish from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.
Bake at 375F for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
*Recipe courtesy of Highlights Michelle Stern
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