Similar to the famous shower scene from “Psycho”, the three little words which send shivers down parents’ spine are “I’m so bored!” usually followed by a chilling “there’s nothing to do!” It can drive anyone bonkers when, regardless of their mountains of toys and gadgets, children constantly complain that they have absolutely nothing to do. A great way to keep them entertained for a good amount of time is to get them involved in the kitchen. It is an ideal activity which can involve many children at a time, in a controlled environment. Most kids are very interested in cooking and find it really fun and fascinating. They enjoy the tactile hands-on experience of cutting, mixing, rolling and best of all eating the fruits of their labour. Cooking is a perfect way for mums, dads or even grandparents to spend some quality time with their children/grandchildren, doing something constructive and educational. Here are some great tips to get them motivated and successfully engage their enthusiasm:
External distractions – Turn off the television, the video games, the ipods etc. to direct all their attention to the task at hand.
Good hygiene – Food poisoning can be a nasty consequence of bad hygiene/sanitation in the kitchen, so please ensure that you have:
- A clean workspace, clean utensils, washed hands, tied long hair, clean towels
Safety is paramount – Teaching children the value of safety in the kitchen early is a life-long asset to their health and safety. Here are some precautions to consider:
- Stable chair or stool for the little ones to stand on.
- Avoid glass bowls, they can be heavy to handle and if dropped can shatter into dangerous shards. A safer option is to use unbreakables such as the Bambu Coconut Bowls for mashing or mixing. They come in a delicious range of natural colours of Mango, Basil, Cayenne and Spearmint and add a splash of colour to your kitchen. The full range of wooden bowls, plates, cooking utensils and cutlery from Bambu are ideal for little hands to handle easily and safely.
- Keep children away from sharp objects, electrical appliances such as blenders, liquidisers etc…and anything heat-related – steamers, open flames, hot ovens etc. These appliances should only be used by the supervising adult.
- An apron/smock will keep their clothes clean and provide some protection in case of a hot spill.
Kids love to be involved and with proper direction, they can become quite the little master-chefs. Give them age-appropriate tasks, such as sifting the flour, mixing the batter, whisking the eggs, rolling out the dough, even chopping if they are old enough. Involve them to make them feel a valued part of the cooking process. It is simply delightful to see their little faces light up with pride when you congratulate them on a job well done.
With practice, children will enjoy helping out in the kitchen on a regular basis. Baking a cake or making cookies occasionally is a nice treat, but taking them through the steps of making a healthy lunch or nutritious snack is even better. Here is a great fresh recipe from www.fruitandveggieguru.com that kids can enjoy at any time of the day. This recipe is perfect for young children to prepare as there is no cutting required.
Layered Blueberry Breakfast Parfaits – Serves 4
- 4 champagne glasses or small, clear juice glasses
- 2 cups Cheerios cereal
- 1 pint fresh blueberries
- 2 8-ounce containers blueberry yogurt (low-fat if possible)
- Rinse and dry blueberries.
- Spoon ¼ cup yogurt into bottom of each glass.
- Add ¼ cup blueberries and top with ¼ cup cereal in each.
- Repeat layers.
- Serve immediately.
**Tip: Use sliced strawberries with strawberry yogurt or sliced peaches with peach yogurt for variation.
For older children who can handle a little more responsibility, the following recipe from www.kidshealth.org makes for a satisfying snack anytime.
Berry Tasty Muffins – Serves 12
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup oatmeal
- 3 tbsp. sugar
- 1 tsp. salt
- 4 tsp. baking powder
- 1 cup blueberries, washed
- 1 egg
- 1 cup milk
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- Non-stick cooking spray/muffin liners
- oven (requires adult supervision)
- mixing spoon
- 2 large bowls
- muffin/cupcake tin
- paper muffin/cupcake liners
- wire rack for cooling muffins
- measuring cups and spoons
- Preheat oven to 400° F (200° C).
- In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oatmeal, sugar, salt, and baking powder.
- Mix in blueberries.
- In another bowl, break the egg and use a fork to beat it just a little bit. Then add the milk and vegetable oil, and mix.
- Add egg mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl.
- Using a mixing spoon, mix about 25 or 30 times. Don’t mix too much! Your muffin mixture should be lumpy, not smooth.
- Line a muffin tin with paper liners or lightly spray with non-stick spray. Spoon in the muffin mix. Fill each muffin cup about 2/3 of the way up.
- Bake for about 18 minutes.
- When muffins are finished baking, remove from muffin tin and cool them on a wire rack.
Encouraging kids to cook is an easy feat when there are scrumptious delights to enjoy at the end. Go shopping together and let them choose fresh ingredients, adding new taste sensations to their repertoire each time. Keep an open mind and they will too – even if you are not keen on certain fresh fruits or vegetables, allow your children the chance to experience them for themselves. Give them ownership of cooking for themselves by providing them their own apron and utensils, oven mitts, their own children’s cookbook and so on.
Let’s put a fresh spin on the old adage and say “A family who cooks healthily, eats healthily and lives healthily happily”.