Cooking with toddlers
Almost everything that involves a toddler involves time and patience. So it’s a good idea to choose short and simple cooking tasks that match your toddler’s skills and attention span.
For example, your toddler could help out with:
- washing fruit and vegies
- getting things from the fridge
- handing over utensils
- stirring cake mixes or tossing salads.
Simple recipes like pita bread pizza, fruit salad and green salad are good because they’re simple to prepare, don’t take long to make, and involve lots of interesting colours and textures.
When your toddler loses interest or gets tired of cooking, it’s a good idea to focus on praising and thanking your toddler for helping, rather than expecting perfection.
Cooking with preschoolers
With preschoolers, you can talk about which foods are healthy and why.
This is also a good age to introduce recipes that involve ‘building’. This could include layering toppings on a sandwich for lunch or spooning yoghurt, cereal and fruit into a glass to make a tasty and healthy dessert.
You could try making some of the following:
- homemade dips like tzatziki or hommus
- fruit salad with yoghurt
- healthy muffins – let your child add raisins, chopped fruit, mashed banana, cooked pumpkin or grated carrot and mix it all together
- roasted vegetables – let your child help out with counting, peeling and chopping (depending on your child’s age) the vegies you need for dinner
- mashed potatoes – let your child have a go with the masher, and mix the potatoes with yoghurt and herbs or another vegetable like carrots.
Cooking also helps preschoolers learn about washing vegetables and fruit, as well as some measuring and counting basics. They might learn some new words too, like ‘grate’, ‘mash’ and ‘delicious’!
And preschoolers are old enough to help with things like setting the table, serving food and cleaning up after meals.
Cooking with school-age children
Your school-age child will probably love helping in the kitchen and making menu suggestions.
This is also a good age to involve your child in choosing fruit, vegies, meat, beans and other foods for mealtimes. You can teach your child about which fruits and vegies are in season.
At this age, your child can help to choose and pack her own healthy lunch box.
When you include your child in choosing and preparing food like this, he’s more likely to eat the food you’ve made together.
You and your child can now try more complex kitchen creations like:
- vegetable or chicken stir-fry
- gnocchi and pasta – with or without a pasta machine
- homemade muesli with nuts and seeds
- pancakes or pikelets.
Your child can help do the dishes and clean the table now.
You’ll still need to help your child with any tasks that involve the oven, hotplates or hot liquids, and supervise carefully if she’s using sharp knives or other utensils.