Cooking and Eating with Kids: Social, Communal, Controllable
We all want our kids to eat good, real, healthy food. That doesn’t mean no treats, but it does mean we want them to embrace broccoli as well as brownies. One way to do that is to cook and eat with our kids as much as possible. Cooking with your kids is social, communal, and controllable (I didn’t say not messy, but it is controllable!).
Social: by eating together and talking, children are learning how to be social in that setting, and they will both eat and share more. When my daughter was in preschool we learned so much more about her days once we started eating family dinner every night. She listened to us talk about our days, and slowly started sharing more and more of hers.
Communal: beyond the pure social elements of a meal with others, is the sense of community this is starting to instill. The connection to others, to ingredients, and even to global cultures if you get adventurous with your cooking.
Controllable: Your child only likes chicken nuggets and French Fries? You can work with that – make homemade versions. You can control the ingredients, making it healthier than processed versions, and you can slowly edge him/her towards some other dishes.
Start slow, once a week, on a night or morning when you are less rushed, like Friday evening when the school and work week is over, or breakfast one weekend morning. Ideally, pick recipes together and keep it simple: tacos, blueberry pancakes, chicken and homemade French fries. Then get started. Even children as young as two can mix and measure – and even cut with a child friendly knife and adult supervision. If you can, cook once a week together, but eat together more often.
The more you eat and cook together, the more this becomes the norm, the more this will be one of the most fun and pleasurable times in your day. By cooking and eating together you will be instilling in kids respect and appreciation for ingredients, not just the finished product, and you will be teaching them that meal time is about more than just the food. Plus, I guarantee they’ll be more willing to try new foods if they have a) helped prepare it and b) see you eat it.
Pesto is a great starter recipe, since it can be served over pasta, chicken, fish, or some combination. And with it’s vibrant green color I have never met a child who didn’t like it, or who at least didn’t try it.
2 cups Basil leaves (fresh, not dried)
1 garlic clove
¼ teas pine nuts (toasted if you have the time, if not no big deal)
¼ up grated parmesan
½ teas salt
¼ cup olive oil
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and mix until smooth. Pesto can keep in the fridge for two weeks and in the freezer for 2-3 months.
Cori Snyder Schuman is the founder of Stir the Pot, a cooking lab for kids and parents. Through classes, parties, events and more Stir the Pot teaches kids how to chop, cook eat and get excited about real food.