Kids in the kitchen
Looking for a sous chef? Here’s some handy hints to help you get kids involved in cooking
Getting kids involved in cooking is a great way to help them understand not only a nutritious, balanced diet, but it's gives them a chance to see that making food is fun. Getting kids interested in cooking is more of an educational activity than anything else. They learn how to complete a task for the whole family, the bonding activity of cooking boosts self-esteem and they learn how to follow instructions and basic maths principles through recipes. As alarming as it was to sit back and watch Jamie Oliver ask school students what broccoli was and have them stare back at him blankly, a lot of the onus is on us to teach our children where food comes from.
Teaching them how fruit is grown on trees, how the chicken drumsticks we are marinating started out, that the herbs promoting the flavour in the cooking came from the backyard and how olive oil is pressed. All these things boost the child's intelligence while they are 'helping mum and dad' and really does give them a chance to do something they love - getting their hands dirty. Teaching children and getting them involved in the cooking process makes them aware of all the different types of foods - the textures and flavours - and will ultimately make your child a more adventurous eater.
Greek food lends itself nicely to including children in the preparation and process of making a meal. First and foremost, Greek food is made to be created by many hands with a lot of love. A child's help with the cooking preparation will almost certainly create a dish filled with joy, caring and a little bit of a child-like fascination. Secondly, Greek food was made to be shared, so with lots of little dishes a child can easily get involved in the cooking process.
Lastly, the Greek cuisine itself is a perfect choice to introduce a child to the kitchen. The recipes are simple, easy to understand and only use a few ingredients. There are no complicated cooking methods, like say in French cooking, and the end result satisfies a palate that can be enjoyed by a child as well as an adult.
Before you start
Before you introduce a child to the kitchen, be sure to ease their way into it. There are not only a plethora or dangerous utensils used - knives, scissors, graters - but you are dealing with elements like fire, gas and ice. It's good to set some boundaries before you start getting kids underway. Have them stand at least a metre away from the oven and stoves when they are on. Don't let them use any of the grown-up knives. Only let them use food processors when supervised, and never let them work with boiling water. And always, always get them into the habit of asking an adult for permission before they embark on their cooking adventure. And washing their hands!
A kid's kitchen
There are so many cooking implements you can buy that are child friendly. Knives that are safe for children to use, utensils for younger hands (making it easy to grab hold of) and even little chef hats and aprons for them to get in the role of junior chef. By ensuring your child has their own utensils, they will feel like they have a part to play in the production of creating dinner.
Kid friendly choices
Anything with colour, and anything sweet is a safe bet for getting your children to help out in the kitchen. Kids love to use their artistic flair so bake a plain cake and have them decorate it with 100's and 1000's, jelly beans, whipped cream - the options are only limited by your, and your child's, imagination. Colourful vegetables and getting them to play around with different tastes and flavours are some great kid friendly options. Learning the textures of each vegetable so they know how to help is a great educational way to engage kids. Allowing them a chance to mould shapes through dough is a technique that they can enjoy for hours, even getting them cookie-cutters in fun designs will allow them to make home-made gingerbread men with a twist.
How they can help
It depends on the child's age in relation to how you can get kids included meal preparation. Get them in the habit of washing the fruit and vegetables you are going to use for the cooking process. This allows them to learn the variety of fresh produce available, but also opens a dialogue to talking about the food. They are great helpers when it comes to locating food from the pantry or refrigerator.
This is a great way to get them identifying different items and promotes self-esteem when they get things right. A great way to teach kids how to read the time, is to start by using the timer in the kitchen and keep an update on how much time is left in the cooking process. Measuring ingredients is a great way to learn size and weight. This is done through learning how to follow a recipe and will help them understand that by using the right amount, they will get the right result. Because wooden spoons are a utensil that kids can use and use well, stirring ingredients is a great way to get little hands busy. Using a spatula is safe for children too, they can even be responsible for spreading or layering the mixture ready to be baked. Setting the table can be more than just putting cutlery on the table. Give them a theme and watch as they get creative. For example, the theme could be 'From the garden'. Allow your child to experiment by incorporating outdoor objects with the table setting.
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