Involving your child in the kitchen during the festivities

Ways to get your toddler involved in the kitchen this holiday season.

Do you have a child from two to five years of age? Are you interested in learning ways to incorporate your young child in the kitchen during this holiday season? Follow these simple tips to include your child in the preparation of a meal. As a caretaker and parent, we are responsible for our child’s development and well-being. Involving children as young as two years of age in the kitchen will contribute to sensory development and life skills. Let’s not forget that between the years of two to five, these little busy bodies are curious to learn new things, so why not keep them busy while helping you in the kitchen? 

According to USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, cooking together as a family can teach your children how to create healthy meals, learn about fruits and vegetables, and may help teach mathematical skills such as measurements. You can determine your child’s kitchen job by the age. At age two, they can help wipe the kitchen table, help snap green beans, and assist with putting the groceries away. At age three, the child can help mix ingredients in, scoop, squeeze, stir, knead, and name and account foods. At age four, the child can set the table, crack eggs, help measure dry ingredients, and toss salads. At age five, a child can measure liquids, use an egg beater, and assist with the peeling. Ensuring your child’s safety is important, as the adult you should never leave your young child unattended in the kitchen and always keep a close eye. You want to make it fun! Turn on some kid-friendly music, and if your child makes a mess cooking, it’s okay! Young children do not have the same muscle strength or coordination as an adult, so messes are a given. The goal is to allow your child to have a fun, learning experience in the kitchen. 

The adult is the most influential person on the child. Being a role model is a big responsibility, but will contribute to a child’s life long skills. Follow Choose My Plate.gov Ten tips to be a healthy role model for children:

  1. Show by Example- eat a variety of foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) in front of your child.
  2. Go Food Shopping together- inviting your child in the grocery shopping experience can teach them about food and nutrition.
  3. Get creative in the kitchen- Have your child name foods, encourage them to invent snacks, and cut food into fun and easy shapes.
  4. Offer the same foods for everyone- Don’t be a short order cook! Offer the same food for the entire family.
  5. Reward with attention, not food- show your love with hugs, kisses, and talks. Not sweets.
  6. Focus on each other at the table- limit distractions such as electronics and make meal eating time a pleasant experience for all.
  7. Listen to your child- provide a small snack if your child is hungry, and offer choices. Ask “do you want broccoli or cauliflower?” instead of “do you want broccoli for dinner?”
  8. Limit Screen time- limit television and computer games to two hours a day. Encourage your child to move during commercial breaks.
  9. Encourage physical activity- Set an example by being physically active and make activity fun for your child.
  10. Be a good role model- Try new foods (they learn from watching you!) and avoid lecturing or forcing a child to eat.

Involving your child in the kitchen can be a fun and magical experience. And you might be surprised, they may even be more willing to try new foods! Michigan State University Extension offers various educational programs for adults, families, and children. To learn more about our services, please visit Michigan State University Extension.