Chef at Home? Cooking with Kids

Written by: Lianne Castelino

Published: May 19, 2010

By Lianne Castelino

My 12-year-old son floored me last night. “Mom, I know what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be a chef.” Boy those kids say the darndest things, don’t they!!

I stepped back and said, “Wow, that’s wonderful son,” as I secretly began plotting out my plan on how to get him more involved in daily family food preparations!

Truth be told, since I’ve started working outside of the home for the past few months, I’ve had to rely on him to help with a few preparations to get dinner started. Since he’s the first one home, he gets that honour! So he’s been doing things like peeling vegetables, or preparing the pots to steam vegetables, or boiling water for pasta or making a salad dressing – which he did last night!

The road to healthy eating, we’ve learned over the years, has many lanes.

For years, I’ve dragged my kids out grocery shopping. Yes, it is more difficult when they’re younger. However, the grocery story is a fabulous, rich learning campus for kids (and adults) when it comes to food. The colours, signs, shapes, varieties – it’s like a science and nutrition class around the corner.

Now that the kids are older (12, 10 and 6), they have an even greater vested interest in coming grocery shopping with us.

We make a list, which they assist with. They suggest school sandwiches/lunch ideas for the week plus snacks.
They create the list. One of them is responsible for writing it, the other responsible for reading the list in the store,
and the third crosses off the items as they are bought.

While shopping, they are increasingly more interested in reading nutrition labels, etc., (which they learn at school as well) and asking questions about food types and trying new things. Trying news things – hmmm – a wonderful concept unto itself, isn’t it!! But I digress!

Getting kids to help with grocery shopping or getting them to make their own sandwiches/lunches the night before or the morning is incredibly important in helping them learn about food and also taking responsibility for their own diet.

The key for parents (we’ve learned over the years) is to have the patience to show and expose them to whole act of food preparation, menu planning and the fact that what we eat requires thought, organization, fresh ingredients and interest.  Once you make that decision, then you have to decide that you will accept that perhaps the sandwich little Johnny makes is not going to look picture-perfect. But he made it, and he’ll likely be proud to eat it. And all that is progress and will go a long way in helping them learn about food, eating healthy and ultimately being able to produce a meal by themselves sooner rather than later.

(If we do have a budding chef in the house, then yippee – we look forward to someone else preparing the home-cooked meals here, sooner rather than later!!)

Watch n’ Learn Video Recipes:  
Salmon Salad
Oven Crunch Fish n’ Chips
Simple Chicken Noodle Soup

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