Now that children are home, it’s an opportunity for families to start a new healthy habit – cooking together. Most children are eager to help and love to eat food they prepare with family members.
From teens to younger children, there are many ways to build age-appropriate skills in the kitchen. Follow our tips for family meal time that will inspire the young chefs in your life.
1. Follow a simple recipe
Families can start involving children in cooking by choosing a simple recipe, such as a vegetable-based soup that doesn’t require a lot of accurate measuring. This type of recipe also allows you to be flexible as you choose the types of fresh or canned vegetables that may be available to cook with.
Quick soups can be made by sautéing veggies in some olive oil until soft, then adding canned beans, diced, cooked meats and a cooked whole grain or small pasta along with broth and spices your family will enjoy. For an Italian flair add basil and rosemary. For Mexican flavors add cumin, oregano and a squeeze of lime. For Mediterranean flavors try adding thyme or Herbes de Provence, a mixture of dried herbs typical of southeast France.
2. Practice kitchen skills ahead of time
Tweens and teens can put in a little practice by searching for online videos about how to use a knife properly to prep veggies. They can also practice using other kitchen tools like peelers and graters.
3. Designate a recipe reader
Another way to involve children in the kitchen is to designate a recipe reader. The child can help everyone remember the ingredients, measurements and cooking steps.
4. Choose age-appropriate activities
For younger children, soft vegetables like zucchini and yellow squash can be cut into sticks that they can then dice with a plastic knife. They can also snap green beans into pieces or tear kale or spinach leaves. Older children who can be trusted with a sharper knife can dice harder vegetables like onions, carrots, celery, hard squashes and sweet or white potatoes (keep the skin on!).
The great thing about soups is that they inevitably taste better the next day so make a big batch and have the kids ladle it into single portion containers for the refrigerator. That way you will also have a handy healthy lunch for the kids to heat up for themselves in the microwave!
Anita Jimenez is a culinary expert with the Johns Hopkins All Children’s community affairs team.