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Recently I came across a statistic that startled me: Many youth today are up to two generations away from households where healthy food is prepared from fresh ingredients. We’re cooking and eating at home less and less. Only about 60% of dinners eaten at home are actually cooked there.

This makes food preparation and nutrition education important to our next generation’s health.  In order for youth to make informed, healthy decisions about their food, they need to have skills and knowledge about nutrition and food. Teaching kids to cook isn’t just passing on useful information they will use to feed themselves later on it also builds math, science, literacy and fine motor skills.

Dinner time is often one of the busiest times every day at my house. Teaching cooking skills and having nutrition discussions with my kids is on the back burner or forgotten in the chaos of the evening. Having a plan to pass on these skills can help make sharing them with your children and teens a priority.

Including your kids in meal planning is a good place to start.  Have children or youth choose a recipe that they are excited to try.  Help them make a list and shop for the ingredients at the store.  This teaches meal planning, a valuable lifelong skill and can build their enthusiasm for being in the kitchen.  As you grocery shop with your child consider explaining to them why you make some of the choices you do.  Talk to them about how and why to compare prices, use coupons or why you choose some brands and sizes over others.

Keep in mind cooking is a skill that increases with experience.  If a recipe with a lot of steps or ingredients feels intimidating for your new chef consider having them start with a side dish or a simple dessert.  Building confidence is part of gaining skills. Keep in mind that not every recipe may turn out successfully.  There’s growth and learning in failure too.  Talk with your child about what went wrong, and what could be done differently next time.

If your child isn’t ready to tackle a recipe on their own, invite them to join you in the cooking process by reading the recipe to you as you prepare food.  This involves them in part of the cooking process and teaches them how to read and follow a recipe.  As they learn to follow a recipe have them participate in other parts of the process such as gathering ingredients, being an assistant chef, setting the table or serving food.

Allow some space and time to play in the kitchen.  Some ideas might include: helping your child with a food science experiment, encouraging your child to create a food dish without a recipe, or experiment with different textures and taste combinations with some of your favorite recipes.

Keep in mind this process will be messy! However, it’s all part of the learning process and will get better with time.  Be prepared to talk about and demonstrate the skills you are wanting them to learn. The important thing to remember is to invite your kids in the kitchen with you in any way. Help them build a lifelong skill; it’s never too late to start.

Author: Alisha Barton, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, Ohio State University Extension – Miami County, barton.345@osu.edu

Reviewed By: Amanda Bohlen, Family and Consumer Science Educator, Ohio State University Extension- Washington County, bohlen.19@osu.edu

Sources:

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2015). Teaching Kids to Cook. https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/cook/teaching-kids-to-cook

Center for Nutrition Studies (2017). Cooking at Every Age, Why Kids Should Learn to Cook. https://nutritionstudies.org/cooking-at-every-age-why-kids-should-learn-to-cook/

eXtension (2017).Cooking with Kids in Schools: Why it is Important. https://www.eatright.org/homefoodsafety/four-steps/cook/teaching-kids-to-cook

 

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