I hear it from parents all the time “my child just doesn’t want to eat the foods I make!” Truth be told, mealtime with kids can feel like a constant battle. Personally, I like to work with families to make mealtime an interactive activity that can help your child to grow up to be healthier.
In the video below, Amanda Haney discusses how getting your children involved in the kitchen helps them develop a healthy appetite.
If you don’t like the video or want more information, continue reading.
Did you know kids are more likely to sit down for a meal with their family if they helped prepare it? Studies also show that kids who help prepare their meals end up eating more fruits and vegetables and have a healthier weight.
Therefore, I recommend you include your child in meal preparation with some of these age-appropriate activities:
Less than 3 years old
Children are curious about their environment at this age. Allow them to hold foods and utensils. Identify cooking objects and kitchen appliances. Narrating what you are doing around the kitchen will help them become familiar with their surroundings and pique their curiosity.
4 – 5 years old
At this age, kids start to identify food colors, name fruits and vegetables, and count. They can begin to prepare foods by helping with basic tasks. Washing fresh produce, mixing simple ingredients in a salad, or using a plastic knife to chop soft fruits or vegetables are all fun activities they can partake in. Kids can also help set the table, set timers, and help with kitchen clean-up.
6 – 7 years old
Fine motor skills are becoming more developed. Kids can help with more complex tasks and use more kitchen tools. Try letting them peel vegetables with a vegetable peeler, crack eggs into a bowl, or use blunt scissors to chop fresh herbs. Stirring and mixing are other important tasks you can delegate since they are much less messy at this age!
8 – 9 years old
Kids naturally want to get messy! Let them pound meats with a tenderizer, peel fruits and vegetables, open packages with scissors or a can opener, and mix ingredients with their hands.
As reading skills develop, kids at this age are more aware of the cooking process and next steps with recipes. Assign them entire steps in the meal preparation process and watch their confidence soar!
10 – 12 years old
Help preteens feel more independent by giving them even more responsibilities. With supervision, they can begin to help boil pasta or vegetables, simmer and stir ingredients over the stove, and bring foods in and out of the oven.
13+ years old
Autonomy is very important during adolescence. Friends and junk food (which we recommend avoiding) marketing also heavily influence food choices. Help your child feel in charge of their food choices by allowing them to select meals to prepare and picking out their own selections at the grocery store.
For a fun challenge, let them prepare dinner for the entire family one evening! Skills and abilities can vary widely, so tailor tasks to each child’s maturity level. Most importantly, have fun!
Have any questions? Comment below or reach out to your local registered dietitian for more information!