Cooking with your kids is a fun and engaging way to show them the importance of healthy eating. Teaching children impacts a child’s preferences for and attitude towards healthier foods like whole fruits and vegetables, and can even help to prevent obesity, according to research. “As you get in the kitchen together with your kids, you aren't only teaching them essential skills, but you are also building memories and a bond that they will always remember,” says Amy Roskelley, health educator and owner of Super Healthy Kids! These fun and easy-to-prepare recipes will help even the youngest of chefs learn to prepare delicious and nutritious meals.
The younger they are when they start, the more comfortable they will be preparing their own food, and the more confident they'll be to branch out into new recipes and ideas.
Amy Roskelley, Super Healthy Kids!
Start with the basics
Starting with the simplest of recipes, even children as young as two years old can learn to help prepare their own food. “The younger they are when they start, the more comfortable they will be preparing their own food, and the more confident they'll be to branch out into new recipes and ideas,” says Roskelley, a mum of three. Even something as simple as teaching them to prepare their own toast in the morning can set in motion a love of cooking, she points out.
Homemade pancakes are a great way to introduce very young children to the art of food preparation. Learning how to mix and pour can help develop a child’s motor skills, while measuring teaches them fundamental maths concepts. “We are big fans of letting the kid make pancakes,” says Roskelley. “We put the batter in a squirt bottle, and let them squeeze it onto the griddle. This helps them learn safety around hot things.”
Homemade pancakes (recipe courtesy of Super Healthy Kids!)
120 g (1 cup) whole wheat flour 2 teaspoons baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar 240 ml (1 cup) milk 1 egg 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
Whisk together whole wheat flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. In a separate bowl, combine milk egg and oil. Mix wet ingredients into the dry and stir together until most of your lumps are gone. If you need to add more milk to get the consistency you like, do this now! Some favourite ingredients to add in include chia seeds, carrots and cinnamon, coconut and chocolate, pumpkin and chocolate, and courgette and berries.
Another simple yet nutritious recipe to make with young kids is twist on a cheesecake recipe using raspberries, Greek yoghurt and crushed digestive biscuits:
3-step raspberry cheesecake (Courtesy of Super Healthy Kids!)
Step 1: Crush a few digestive biscuits in a seal-able bag, using a rolling pin. Place in the bottom of a cup or bowl. Step 2: Top the digestive biscuits with yoghurt and fresh raspberries. Step 3: Freeze for one hour.
Once children have mastered the art of mixing, pouring and have had some practice measuring, they can move onto more involved recipes – with supervision, of course. With help, children aged four and up can learn how to crack an egg and whisk it into a bowl. Older children – again, with supervision – can then cook the egg over a low flame to make scrambled eggs, for example.
“When we are always making their lunches, cutting their waffles, and putting the meals on the table, we aren't giving them the opportunity to learn these cooking skills that will help them become confident in their ability to fix their own food,” says Roskelley. Once your child has mastered a few basic skills, he’s ready to move on to a more complex recipe, such as this strawberry mango bubble tea recipe from Roskelley. This recipe requires measuring liquids, as well as chopping fruit. If your child is ready to try chopping on his own, invest in child-safe knives, which are typically sharp enough to cut food, but not skin.
Strawberry mango bubble tea
480 ml (2 cups) of milk 200 g (1 cup) of strawberries, halved 165 g (1 cup) of mango pieces 75 g (1/2 cup) of boba (balls made from tapioca)
Directions: 1. Blend milk, strawberries and mango together. 2. If you are using fresh fruit, add ice to desired consistency. 3. Adults: Boil boba in water or 100% juice for 5 minutes and let cool. 4. Stir into fruit and milk mixture. 5. Pour into glasses and serve with a fat straw. Enjoy!
Mastering the kitchen
As your children mature and gain more confidence in the kitchen, you can give them the space to work out recipes on their own. Just remember that it may take many kitchen sessions before a child is ready to cook alone, says Roskelley. “The first time you prepare a dish together, you are with them 100 percent of the time. You talk about the recipe, you help them get through it. The second time, you participate 50 percent of the time,” she says, suggesting that you should help and assist where needed, but take a back seat approach. “The third time, you let them try it themselves, but you are close by, perhaps in the next room, so they can ask questions as they need to. Then, by the fourth time, they could go at it all on their own.”
If they’ve been cooking alongside you since they were young, your pre-teens and teens might relish the opportunity to experiment with new recipes or cuisines. A simple Internet search can pull up an at-home recipe for one of their favourite take-away meals. Older kids with experience in the kitchen, for example, might want to try to prepare their own chicken fingers, using the recipe below, which is courtesy of the children’s television programme “Hey Kids, Let’s Cook!”
Baked chicken fingers (Makes 14) 1 egg 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (around 450 g or 1 lb.) 2 teaspoons olive oil 55 g (1/2 cup) dry breadcrumbs
Directions: 1. Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius (400 Fahrenheit). 2. In a small bowl, crack the egg and whisk together. 3. In another small bowl measure the bread crumbs. 4. Cut chicken breast in half, and cut each half into 5 cm (2 inch) pieces. 5. Prepare the frying pan by adding 2 teaspoons olive oil and turn the pan to medium high. 6. Dip each chicken piece into the egg mixture then into the dry breadcrumbs, then place into the frying pan. 7. After about 2 minutes, use tongs to flip them over, and cook another 2 minutes. 8. Place them immediately onto an un-greased baking sheet and place into the oven. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until chicken fingers are cooked through. Serve with honey-mustard dressing.
“Giving them a new challenge or a new task should be followed up with enough assistance that they have the skills to carry it out on their own,” Roskelley adds. “While this obviously takes longer and is harder, it's so worth it in the long run.”