I recently stumbled upon my very first cookbook…from 1985. Inside were many of my doodlings and also lists that I had made (surprise surprise) of elementary school friends that I wanted to cook for. The evidence strongly suggests that I have been interested in food in one way or another since I was in kindergarten. Although I have reason to believe that the desire goes back even further than that.
It is as though Someone knew the joy that I would get from cooking, then carefully wrapped up that desire, and gave it to me as a gift to open and discover. I’m blessed by the gift and I’m thankful that my parents helped me to open and discover it. I’m thankful that they took the time to cook for me and with me. I’m also thankful that the house never burned down as a result of my early cooking experiments.
I feel pretty strongly that the best way to teach children about food and help them become better eaters is to get them into the kitchen (or into the garden!) from a very early age. Most kids are skeptical about trying new foods…especially fruits and vegetables. When kids are able to use their senses to see, touch, and smell new foods they are usually more likely to taste them.
Below is a list of 10 ways to teach your children about food (good food)!
1. PYO – (Pick Your Own)
Bring your child to a local farm or orchard and spend an hour or two picking fresh fruits and vegetables.
2. GYO – (Grow Your Own…garden)
If space is limited, grow some herbs or veggies in pots on your porch, roof-top, or at the local community garden. I have seen some serious veggie haters reform their ways once they started to grow their own vegetables.
3. Visit a local farm.
I am so surprised at how many children have no idea what broccoli looks like or where/how it grows…on a tree, underground, or on a plant. Nutrition literacy can (and should) begin at a very young age.
4. Ask your child to help with meal preparation.
Kids are usually eager to help out in the kitchen. Suggest washing vegetables, setting the table, making a sandwich, mixing, stirring, sorting, gathering, serving, etc.
5. Ask your child to help with grocery shopping.
For example, at the grocery store, ask your child to pick out 3 green vegetables. This will teach your child about the huge variety of green vegetables, but also about making choices, having responsibility, learning colors, counting, etc.
6. Ask your child to help make the grocery list.
For example, ask your child to write down the types of fruit he or she would like that week and how many of each you will need.
7. Ask your child to help with making his/her lunch.
For example, ask your child to count out a serving of crackers and put them into a baggie, fill up a water bottle, make a sandwich, or rinse an apple and put it into their lunch bag.
8. Cook a special recipe with your child.
Spend some time with your child looking through cookbooks either ones that your own, from the book store, or at the local library. Select a recipe (does not necessarily need to be super ridiculously healthy), but it should be something that has the potential to be a fun and memorable experience.
9. Allow your kids to make a mess (in the kitchen).
Everybody’s got to be able to make a mess sometimes, right Kevin?
10. Then….Ask your child to help with cleaning up after cooking.
For example, ask your child to wash or dry a few dishes, load the dishwasher, or put ingredients back where they belong.
Here is a link for My First Cookbook
Here is a link for 15 Cookbooks for Kids
Another excellent resource for teaching children to cook and become educated about nutrition is a magazine called Chop Chop. Check it out!
Try this recipe with your kids! The recipe has been adapted/changed from the original recipe from my first cookbook.
- Rinse the apples and using a corer, core out the center of each apple. The corer should go through the entire apple removing the seeds.
- Using an extra large muffin pan (that holds 6 muffins), place each apple in the pan.
- Sprinkle the tops and inside of each apple with a little lemon juice.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the brown sugar, flour, butter, oats, and cinnamon. Mix together with hands (or food processor) until butter is completely combined and small peas sized pieces of dough are formed.
- Add the walnuts and raisins to the mixture.
- Stuff each apple with the mixture, cover the pan with foil, and bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes. You will know when the apples done because the luscious smell of Colonial New England will fill your entire home.