5 Ways to Encourage Children to Assist in Meal Preparation
Preparing a healthy and nutritious meal for your family takes a lot of time and effort, but the reward is always worth it. By giving your children the opportunity to get involved, you will not only ease the load but also make mealtimes fun and memorable whilst promoting a sense of independence, responsibility and self-confidence within your child. Children of all ages can get involved with meal prep, but they will not be suited to all tasks. Here’s a brief guide highlighting some age-appropriate tasks you may like to give your kids.
Toddlers (2-3 Years Old)
Toddlers are eager to explore and exercise independence, so you may wish to provide some simple tasks which will help them feel included and valued at mealtime.
- Placement of spoons and napkins on the dining table (avoid knives/sharp objects and breakables).
- Using a spoon to stir ingredients or mix sauces/batters
- Assisting with picking fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs
- Simple cake or cookie decoration
- Assisting with post-meal clean up
Pre-schoolers (3-5 Years Old)
By this stage, your child will have better developed their coordination skills and can assist with more involved tasks. Remember to praise your child for a job well done, as this will help to show that their participation is valued and give them a sense of belonging. Some mealtime tasks to give your pre-schooler include:
- Sourcing and placing utensils and cups
- Rinsing and tearing fresh lettuce leaves/greens for use in salad
- Making biscuits of various shapes using cookie cutters
- Using scales to measure out dry ingredients (flour, sugar etc.)
6-8 Years Old
Primary school aged children are starting to embrace independence, and they are also eager to develop new skills and put their physical and mental abilities to the test. It’s a great idea to get them involved in the kitchen, as there is much to be learned here. Give them a challenged with some of the following:
- Reading recipes and sourcing ingredients from the pantry
- Washing and peeling vegetables
- Making a pizza from scratch and kneading the dough
- Preparation of simple and nutritious side dishes (salads, rice, pasta etc.)
- Cleaning up/washing dishes
9-11 Years Old
By this stage most children will be ready to tackle simple recipes on their own, and they can also get involved with some more involved cooking methods such as sauteing and boiling. The skills developed in the coming years will be used throughout their adult life, and with careful supervision the following activities can be performed responsibly and safely.
- Following a recipe from beginning to end without assistance (start with simple recipes such as spaghetti Bolognese)
- Preparation of meat and vegetables
- Boiling rice/pasta
- Setting the correct temperature and starting the oven timer
- Stir frying
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Involving your children in meal prep is a great way to nurture their independence whilst also teaching them valuable skills. Exposure to different types of foods and an appreciation for their preparation will also help to ensure they enjoy a healthy, well-balanced diet.
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