Healthy eating isn’t just for grown ups! In fact, learning how to eat well should begin at an early age. At least that’s what we believe here at Around the Plate and this August, Kids Eat Right Month serves as the perfect reminder to make nutrition a family affair.
Although there are many different way to promote healthy eating, we believe an essential component to changing the way you eat is by spending more time in the kitchen. The kitchen can be a great place to learn how to cook, spend time together, and learn from each other. It can provide space to nurture and cultivate passion for food exploration; and that is an essential component of becoming a healthy, balanced eater.
If you don’t currently spend a lot of time in the kitchen with kids, you may be looking for a few easy ways to make the adjustment. To make kitchen time a more natural occurrence for you and your family, we asked a few of our favorite dietitians to share their favorite kid kitchen activities with us.
Make your kitchen a place the entire family wants to be!
Host a family taste test! One of my favorite mom dietitians and co-founder of Foodie Babies, Katie Serbinski, RD, knows all too well the importance of keeping kiddos occupied in the kitchen. With a 10 month old of her own, she’s already beginning to explore ways to introduce new foods, flavors, and pairings. Her advice? Have fun experimenting with new flavors! And who says you have to wait until you’re in the kitchen to start having food fun with young ones? Katie recommends getting the action started right in the grocery store. Talk about different foods before you take them home.
Explore food labels. Who needs a board game when all the action is in your pantry? For older kids, consider setting up a scavenger hunt and send them out on a special mission – to find something healthy or bizarre on one of the food labels located on the back of your stocked foods. Once you all find something to share, talk about it! According to Jessi Boehme, RD, this can be a great way to get the conversation going and is something she covers in the Cooking Matters classes she teaches in Muskegon, MI. After all, before you cook, you should probably know what you’re cooking!
Play with your food. Another great way to have fun in the kitchen? Let your kids play with their food! Although any food may do, Jessica Serdikoff, RD from one of our favorite nutrition-inspired blogs, Floptimism, recommends an avocado for this sort of activity. Kids can be messy, curious, and experimental by discovering how it feels, and then prepping it for a fun and delicious treat. Kids can also take turns stirring and mixing. This helps kids not only get comfortable with a variety of foods, but become more familiar with a variety of tastes and senses
Count Your Veggies. Another simple, mess-free idea for building kitchen creativity involves one of my favorite foods – vegetables! Although, in reality, you could really use any food you’d like. Since veggies are often harder to love though and so important for good health, why not give your kids extra exposure? According to registered dietitian, Elizabeth Shaw, RD, this idea is often well-received by busy parents. Simply get out a few cut up veggies and allow your kids to count them as they place them into a plastic or resuable baggie. Not only will they have a snack-to-go, but they’ll also practice building up important math skills too!
Have open snack night. Another great idea for kids of all ages? I like hosting open snack nights. Yeah, its sort of like open mike night… if the mike were food and you were asked to whip up a quick snack on the fly. Actually, open snack night is pretty easy to pull off and, depending on the age of your children, can be as elaborate or simple as you’d like. Simply choose your ingredients ahead of schedule and put them out on the counter. Encourage everyone in your family to make the most delicious, most creative snack they can think of out of the ingredients provided. Once the snacks have been created, everyone gets to try them and vote on the favorite. For younger kids, you can whip up a few different snack options and then let them see how they like each one. For older kids, let their imaginations run wild!
No matter how you choose to have fun in your kitchen, we hope it will lead to healthy conversations, great social interaction, and an increased likelihood that everyone in the family will try a new nutrient-rich food either that night or in the near future.
What sort of kid kitchen activities have you tried? What do you recommend?