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Time to Get Cookin'! How We Teach Kids About Food Preparation

Photo by FamVeld / iStock
Photo by FamVeld / iStock

By Rachel Ward

“I wanna help!”

Your little helper’s offer to assist with cooking dinner isn’t just endearing—it’s also their way of expressing curiosity about the (sometimes messy) colorful wonders that you make happen every day in the kitchen!

Around the two- or three-year mark, kids’ curiosity is beginning to peak as they explore new textures, find and investigate new sights and smells, and dive into new experiences—and the kitchen is chock full of those.

“When children are brought into the kitchen at a young age, they get the chance to see how combining certain foods together creates something entirely new, which can be truly magical for them,” says Courtney Hines, KinderCare’s in-house nutritionist. “It also makes them more likely to develop a lifelong love of cooking and healthy foods.”

That’s why here at KinderCare, we occasionally give kids the chance to assist in preparing snacks and meals—like smoothies!

Kitchen Activities for Kids Hold a Lot of Healthy Benefits

Our Discovery Preschoolers help teachers by adding fruit, veggies, and yogurt to the blender before standing back and watching the machine whip everything into a smooth and fruity drink.

Yummy? Oh, yes. Educational? Absolutely! But there’s another added benefit that makes getting your tot into the kitchen a parenting slam dunk (we’ve got some great safety tips, too).

“When children are able to pitch in and help the adults in their lives, they’re gaining a sense of responsibility, and learning new skills like how to put a salad or fruit smoothie together boosts their confidence and self-esteem,” explains Hines.

We’re teaching kids all about healthy foods and food preparation at KinderCare, but you can do the same at home! Check out some of our fun and simple tips below.

Food on the Brain! 4 Ways to Teach Kids About Healthy Eating and How We Make Food

1.  Nab some good reads

No matter what the topic, there’s some awesome kids’ books out there just waiting for you to find them! We have some favorites focused on ID’ing healthy and unhealthy foods, but you can also grab some of these special cookbooks for kids to let your child take charge in the kitchen (and yes, there’s even a toddler cookbook in there).

2. Let them craft their own menu—and cook it up

Whether they’re dreaming of ice-cream pizza or hamburgers with cashews, there’s no limit to what your child will invent for a dinner menu! Let them see all the items in the fridge or cupboard and ask them what they'd make. After they've let out some ideas, talk about healthy options. If they’ve chosen nothing but fried or sugary foods, point them toward healthier alternatives. Then make it happen!

3. There’s an app for that

Get your child into the habit of thinking about healthy foods by downloading Fooducate on your phone. The app is free and features a function that scans product barcodes and then grades the product based on how nutritious it is (from A+ to F). Your child will love scanning foods, and you’ll have the added bonus of finding the healthiest option for your family!

4. Grow some plants at home

A great way to get your child involved in the kitchen (and learning about healthy foods) is by showing them the growing process for fruits and veggies firsthand. Not only are they learning how to care for plants, but they’re more likely to eat that healthy produce if they’ve grown it themselves!

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