From the get go I have always brought my babies into the kitchen to prepare meals with me, them seated in their feeding chairs or snug against my body in a baby wrap while I cooked. As they got older, they would “help” me prepare the food, often creating more of a mess than anything, but the benefits of cooking with my children and engaging them in meal preparation from a young age has been so valuable.
It is such a great opportunity to teach them about nutrition through discussion. Pointing out the colours of foods and what those foods are doing inside their little bodies to keep them healthy and strong. “did you know all these red fruits like the strawberry’s, cherries, raspberry’s and apples have antioxidants that protect the cells inside our bodies helping us keep illnesses away". They will learn and absorb information and start associating foods that can make their bodies strong and healthy.
Consider tailoring how they help with meal preparation based on their age. Little ones can help you tear the greens for your salad, pour something into a bowl or help stir a sauce. Older kids can help measure out ingredients, peel fruits and vegetables, form patties, and cook with you supervising at the stove.
Children are more likely to eat what they make. In my experience, if I can get them to try just one bite of the food they are resisting to eat for the first time, they are often pleasantly surprised and will continue to eat it. When they help prepare the meal it gives them a sense of pride and ownership over the food the family is eating, and are far more likely to try it if they took part in making it.
The greatest benefit is all the quality time you get to spend as a family. I find the girls chat and share so many stories from their day when we are in the kitchen. This is time dedicated to being together accomplishing something.