Cooking with Kids (and How It Helps Picky Eaters)

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Two toddler cooking in the kitchen. One holds up a cucumber.As a child, I don’t recall any family recipes that stand out. To be honest, I don’t remember being in the kitchen all that often. I was a very picky eater throughout high school and college, but I was forced to change my food habits when I had to deal with some chronic health issues in 2010.

When my child was turning one year old, I was stressed about cooking healthy and delicious meals for her. I started to incorporate time in the kitchen with her so she could learn valuable life skills involving cooking and food prep — something I never got as a child.

If you’d like to start cooking with your kids, start by making sure you have the necessary kitchen tools and accessories. Here are some tools to keep in your kitchen:

Always remember: Don’t pressure your children to taste during and after making recipes. If you don’t insist they eat something, they are more likely to taste the food!

After you have the proper kitchen tools, follow these tips to begin cooking with your kids. These can apply for toddlers, as well.

>> RELATED READ :: All About Cooking with Kids :: Teaching My Son to Cook <<

Encourage Play

Cooking with your kids doesn’t have to be in the kitchen. It can also be pretend cooking or using foodstuffs as a sensory activity.

For example, get a cup of rice and some small cups, and encourage a toddler to measure a quarter of a cup, half a cup, a full cup, and other measurements. Playing restaurant is always a favorite game in our house. Take turns being the waiter and customer. Go through all the steps, including signing the check at the end.

Pick “Safe” Recipes to Start

To avoid frustration and food waste, choose recipes you and your family members will enjoy. If you have a picky eater (like I once was), once your child sees you trying it, curiosity may take over. Make modifications for children under four years of age, as some foods can be a choking hazard.

A mom and daughter pull cookies out of the oven.Make It Fun

Make up songs for simple tasks. For example, sing this jingle to the tune of the alphabet song: “Cut the carrots, cut them well, chop the onions, they are swell!”

Be Very Prepared

Have all ingredients out beforehand and even include a snack in case your child gets hungry. Don’t forget to have towels to clean up and move your trash can as close to the cooking space as possible. Bar soap might be easier for toddlers to wash their hands afterwards, as some liquid soaps can be a challenge to pump onto their hands.

>> RELATED READ :: Battling Kitchen Burnout :: How I Rekindled My Relationship With Cooking <<

Embrace the Mess

Expect spills, and don’t feel pressured to clean up right away. Have fun making memories and ask a family member take photos! Cooking with kids is fun year round, but it is especially fun during the holidays, like these Christmas cookies.

Tip: Before the holidays, test recipes without kids to see if the recipe is a keeper!

Want to get out of the house? Try a cooking class with your kid! Here are a few local options:

Teaching your kids to cook is a lifelong lesson that will not only be fun, but it will also teach them a lifelong skill.

Guest writer Rachel Wolf.Rachel Wolf is an instructional designer living in Dallas but will be making a big move to New England soon.

She enjoys traveling the world, scrapbooking and art. Her favorite countries she has visited are Iceland and Denmark. She enjoys spending time with her toddler, going to indoor playgrounds and interactive museums.