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(Updated May 20, 2013)
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Combine Cooking Time With Family Time
Alice Henneman, MS, RD, UNL Extension in Lancaster County
If you're caught between finding time to prepare meals and spending quality time with your children, try cooking with them. Here are suggestions for cooking with kids from "Kids in the Kitchen" in the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture's Tips for Using the Food Guide Pyramid for Young Children.
Children enjoy helping in the kitchen and often are more willing to eat foods they help prepare. Involve your child in planning and preparing some meals and snacks for the family.
When your child is helping you with food preparation, don't forget cleanliness. Wash hands using soap and warm running water before and after handling food or utensils to prepare food.
It is important that you give kitchen tasks appropriate for your child’s age. Be patient as your child gains new skills at different ages.
Meal Preparation Activities for Young Children:
Children have to be shown and taught how to do these activities. Each child has his or her own pace for learning, so give it time and the skills will come. Expect a few spills. It's a small price to pay for helping your children become comfortable around food.
- Bring ingredients from one place to another
- Wipe table tops
- Tear lettuce or greens
- Break cauliflower
- Snap green beans
- Play with utensils
3-year-olds: Can do what 2-year-olds do, plus...
- Wrap potatoes in foil for baking
- Knead and shape yeast dough
- Pour liquids
- Mix ingredients
- Shake liquids in covered container
- Spread soft spreads
- Place things in trash
4-year olds: Can do all that 2- and 3-years-olds do, plus...
- Move hands to form round shape
- Cut parsley or green onions with dull scissors
- Mash bananas using fork
- Set table
5-to 6-year-olds: Can do all that 2-, 3-, and 4-years-olds do, plus...
- Measure ingredients
- Cut with blunt knife
- Use an egg beater