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Oregon Family Magazine

Growing Appetites

10/04/2021 ● By Pilar Bradshaw, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Involving your children in mealtime planning and cooking can be a great way to help develop both their young bodies and minds.

When children are encouraged to help, from shopping to serving, they gain exposure to many fundamental concepts. They’re also likely to build more of an interest in nutrition, while spending time together in the kitchen can be enriching for your relationship.

Create Learning Opportunities

Here are just a few of the educational opportunities that meal preparation offers to children:

  • Helps them practice math concepts, such as counting, measurements and fractions.
  • Provides sensory experiences and the opportunity to practice new vocabulary in describing how food looks, feels and tastes.
  • Shows them the importance of planning, following instructions and completing projects.

Keep your child’s age in mind while assigning tasks. While younger children can stir, measure or crack eggs, leave anything involving sharp tools and hot ovens to older children. No matter how old your child is, always supervise them to ensure safety.

Encourage Good Nutrition

One key benefit of having children help with meals is that it gives them a feeling of being involved in choosing what they eat.

Especially if you have a picky eater, take your child with you to the grocery store and have them help select the ingredients. They will learn more about where their food comes from and why some foods are better than others. As a result, they’re likely to make better nutritional choices as they grow older.

When it comes time to cook, have your child help prepare ingredients. That may really help a picky eater be more open to trying something new because they helped make it.

Enjoy Bonding Time

Spending time together in a natural, non-confrontational setting may be the biggest benefit of all in preparing a meal with your child.

Cooking together as a family provides opportunities for parents and kids to talk. When you’re having a naturally flowing conversation, topics may come up that your child hasn’t brought up before. Breaking bread together can break down barriers.

Once you’ve started sharing in these experiences, you may soon find mealtimes with your children are some of the best times.