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How to involve kids in making dinner

Christine Bryant is a freelance writer based in Columbus, OH, where she lives with her husband and daughter. She writes for SheKnows, as well as several other publications that include newspapers and magazines. She writes on topics such ...

Table for 4: How to get the family involved

Cooking as a family is a wonderful opportunity to bond, teach kids about healthful eating and have fun. But do you find yourself stuck in the kitchen with the rest of the family scattered? Here are some tips on how you can get your kids interested in making dinner.

Mother and daughter cooking

Helping in the kitchen is a great bonding experience for families and is something that can bring a lot of joy to all family members. Here are some ways you can get your kids involved in the kitchen so all of you create lasting memories and learn lifelong skills.

Start young

No matter their age, children can be involved in every step of the dinner-making process, from prepping ingredients to putting together meal components, said Alicia C. Simpson, a maternal and pediatric dietitian and founder of Pea Pod Nutrition.

"Children who are too young to use a knife can help by tearing lettuce to make a salad or by assisting in stirring ingredients with a parent's guidance," she said. "Being part of the process of putting things together helps take some of the mystery away from the food that is on their plates and creates more adventurous eaters."

Young children can also complete simple tasks, such as putting ice in cups, cutting soft fruit with a butter knife or buttering bread with the back of a spoon or dull knife.

Show the process from start to finish

Children often don't know how the food they eat ended up on their plates. Have them pick what they want for dinner, make a grocery list and go to the grocery store with you. Once home, they will be eager to jump into the kitchen and get started.

Want to go back in the process even further? Take kids to local farms or grow a garden to show kids how those carrots and leafy greens come from the ground rather than the shelves at the supermarket.

Stray from the recipe

Being adventurous while cooking helps foster creativity in children and allows them to take ownership of the food they are preparing, Simpson said.

"Children can assemble things like tacos and burritos with their favorite ingredients or pick out some of their favorite foods and add them to a casserole," Simpson said.

Share stories

Cooking time in the kitchen is great for letting parents feel at ease to talk about different topics and share stories, said Jacque Wick, author of A to Z Cookbook for Kids.

"The kitchen is a focal point of love in the home," she said. "Family history can also be shared. You can tell them this is their grandma's recipe or their aunt's."

Make it a learning experience

Cooking together as a family is a great way to teach lifelong skills and self-reliance, as well as reinforce what your children are learning in the classroom or at home.

"For example, it's a great way to learn numbers as you count out things," Wick said. "Say, 'I need two tomatoes for our salad,' and let them count out loud. You can make a game of it: 'What color is this fruit? Purple for grapes.'"

While kids can easily get bored with a task, adding learning elements will not only keep their attention but also teach them how many subjects, like math, are incorporated into a daily activity like preparing the food they eat.

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