I have always enjoyed time in the kitchen.  For my 8th birthday I was given a cookbook and a cookie sheet.  I still have that cookbook and my sons used it often when they were learning to cook.  We have a lot of memories connected with food and family.
Joel loves to come up with new combinations of foods.  We have a wonderful camping story about Joel that involved fresh trout, bacon and a special apple chutney he whipped up to make a bacon wrapped stuffed trout for our dinner when I had planned canned chili! haha. Danielle enjoys cooking with Ansel and Zoe. This week she had the kids make applesauce with the apples from her parents tree.  Ansel and Zoe are so proud of their adventures in the kitchen.  When Ansel was two he would imitate the adults cooking in the kitchen at his little kitchen that was set up near the stove.  He would have us sample his delicious meals while we were making the evening meal.  Both of our sons enjoyed spending time with us in the kitchen.  They enjoyed eating what they made as well!  Being together preparing a meal makes a memory and the aromas from those foods will bring back memories when the smells come wafting through your kitchen again.  When Nick was in college he would come home and chat in the kitchen while we made cookies.  The smell of cookies baking in the oven brings back the memories of those times together in the kitchen.Children enjoy being part of the family meal planning and being involved in the making of that meal.Cooking with children can be a fun learning experience that can create some wonderful memories and develop family traditions.  

Here are five ways to enjoy cooking with your children while raising an adventurous eater along the way.

  1. Engage other senses. For a hesitant eater, tasting an unfamiliar food can sometimes be intimidating. You can help your child explore foods when cooking using other senses besides taste. This helps to build positive associations with food. Kneading dough, rinsing vegetables, and tearing lettuce all involve touching food and being comfortable with texture. The complex flavors we experience when eating food come from both taste sensations from the tongue AND smelling with the nose. While cooking with new ingredients, some children may feel too overwhelmed to taste. If this happens, you can try suggesting smelling a food first; this may provide a bridge to tasting in the future. 
  2. Use cooking to raise smart kids. There are so many lessons that can be taught while cooking. Math concepts like counting, measurement, and fractions naturally unfold when navigating a recipe with kids. Explaining how food changes with temperature or how certain foods can help our body be healthy provide great lessons in science. While cooking with your child, practice new vocabulary as you describe how food looks, feels, and tastes. Following a recipe from start to finish helps build the skills for planning and completing projects. 
  3. Make cooking part of the family culture. The family meal can start in the kitchen as you cook together. Family meal preparation is an opportunity to celebrate your cultural heritage by passing down recipes. Help your kids find new, seasonal recipes to add to your repertoire and family cookbook. Cooking together and prioritizing health over the convenience of processed food are great ways to lead by example and help your children buy into a culture of wellness. Building daily and seasonal traditions around cooking together helps strengthen your family’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle.  
  4. Keep it safe. Teach kids the importance of staying safe while cooking by showing them how to hold kitchen tools safely, how to use oven mitts to protect hands from heat, and  how to turn appliances on and off safely. Always supervise children when cooking to ensure they are sticking with safe and age-appropriate tasks. The best way to keep cooking safe is to know your child’s abilities and his or her stage of development. A four-year-old child, for example, may not be ready to sauté vegetables over a hot pan, but may have the fine motor skills to rinse fruits or tear salad leaves. Keeping safety in mind, it is not difficult to get kids—even toddlers—involved in the kitchen.  
  5. Ask for input. Children feel more included in mealtime when they are asked to be a part of meal preparation. Collaborate with your kids when selecting recipes for main dishes or sides. Let them help you make the shopping list and find groceries in the store or farmers market. When cooking together, let children offer a critique of the foods you are preparing. Together you can decide what ingredients you should add to enhance the flavor. Talk about how people enjoy different tastes, and share your preferences with each other. Letting children be “in charge” of details like how to set the table will help them feel invested in mealtime.

Along with cooking children develop a sense of belonging when given responsibilities at mealtime.  They can help set the table, tear the lettuce for a salad and bring the dishes to the kitchen after the meal.  With the table centerpiece they create they will be so proud of what they have contributed to the meal time table.  I hope you find ways to include your child in the meal preparations for your family.   The holiday season is a great time to create some family traditions in the kitchen.  Some of these traditions will become memories of activities that you will remember  with the scent of cookies coming out of the oven,  bread baking or the smell of pancakes on the griddle.I know I am transported back in time with a variety of aromas in the kitchen … yummy food, lots of laughter and family fun.  Enjoy making your own memories in the kitchen with your child.