Kids in the Kitchen: How To Raise Healthy Eaters

Kids in the Kitchen - How To Raise Healthy Eaters

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.

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Therefore, I recommend you include your child in meal preparation with some of these age-appropriate activities:

Kitchen utensils are great kitchen items for kids to learn about at an early age

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.  

Setting the kitchen timer is an easy task for a 4-5 year old child to perform.

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.

Cracking eggs into a bowl is a fun kitchen task for kids of 6-7 years of age.

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!

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8-9 year old kids LOVE reading recipes and helping follow each step.

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!

Responsible 10-12 year old children can help in the kitchen by boiling water.

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! 

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Amanda Haney (Legro), MS, RD, CNSC
Hi, my name is Amanda Haney (Legro). I am a registered dietitian and board-certified nutrition support clinician. I was born and raised in Bakersfield, CA. I later moved to Southern California to attend Cal State Long Beach where I obtained my undergraduate degree in nutrition and dietetics as well as my master's degree in nutrition science. I completed my dietetic internship at Cal State Long Beach as well. And I love my alma mater so much that I have since returned to teach undergraduate courses in nutrition. I practice medical nutrition therapy in the pediatric intensive care unit at Miller Children's and Women's Hospital Long Beach. As a clinical dietitian, I'm committed to providing my patients with high-quality nutrition care, to improve their well-being on their road to recovery. I became a dietitian because I love food and I love medicine. There is so much misinformation about nutrition in the media. My passion is to make nutrition simple and to make your health goals achievable. In my free time, I love soaking up the beauty at the beach, riding my bike, staying active, cooking, and, most of all, spending time with my family and friends!

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