Tips - Get Kids Involved in the Kitchen with Greater Appetite

I hear often that children are picky eaters and their lack of interest in the kitchen.  My advice is get them involved young.  If you find your child has no interest in certain foods, and in the kitchen all together, I say get them involved more!  I know it sounds repetitive but that's exactly what I meant to do, because my point is try and try again.  My son is three and he loves to be in the kitchen fully involved in all that I will allow.  I have a little niece that is seven and enjoys being involved in the kitchen and is pretty good at helping out as well.  They weren't always this way, we provided the road for them to walk into the kitchen and be interested.

As many of you may already know, my son has food allergies, and that has somehow created an extra interest in food and what ingredients we are using to make certain dishes.  A three year old that asks "did you make the shopping list of the ingredients?" impressive, no?  I may by biased as his mother, but I'm impressed. :)  Earlier this week we went shopping and walked into the fresh produce aisle only to buy some avocados.  But my son surprised me and started asking questions and pointing at everything.  Naming all that he saw, saying "I want to buy cilantro, oh and celery" many of which I have never made for him before.  He told me he learned from the "cooking shows" we watched together, I thought for sure he was playing with his toys when I was watching.  I was pleasantly surprised, of course motivated and started pointing out more that he didn't already know, and taking the opportunity to tell him what he which foods he was allergic to as well.

We pointed at almost every fruit and vegetable, did some math and color fun while at it.  In the end he suggested that he wanted salad picked out mixed greens, corn, tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, cucumbers, and tossed them all into the cart.  I just let him, as I stood there thinking "this, this little boy is why I'm so happy all the time" with the biggest smile on my face.  We came home he helped me cut the mushrooms with a little plastic knife, peel the carrots, and he got to pick out more that was going into the salad.  He was so glad to have had full part in the making of the salad he ate so much of it, we sat facing each other as we ate a whole bowl of salad dressed with olive oil, vinegar and a sprinkle of salt.  
So what's my point in sharing this story with you?  Because this is a way to get kids involved in the kitchen and have a greater appetite for food.  It's not always this easy of course, because we all have our days when we aren't "in the mood" for certain foods, so yes my son has his picky difficult days as well. :) 
  • Always let them know what they are eating, naming ingredients and even how you made it.
  • Take them grocery shopping with you, let them have a part in choosing what to buy and even what to make.
  • Always introduce new foods, new colors onto your family plate.
  • Make helping in the kitchen fun, talk about the food, get in character put on aprons (adds fun for any age).
  • Let them help you in the kitchen.  Let them explore their interests in making dishes their own way, don't be strict when they are helping out.  Make it fun!
If my son didn't have food allergies and I had gotten him used to ready made food, and other "regular" quick fixes, he wouldn't be the way he is.  Knowledge is power and that applies to everything in the kitchen as well.  Kids of all ages, and adults are more likely to have a greater interest in what they eat if they know what they are eating as well as had a part in making it.  We need food to survive, so be passionate about what you eat, and in the end about life.  

I'd also like to take this opportunity to let you all know about a fun contest Uncle Ben's has launched to "empower and encourage parents to connect with their kids, one meal at a time," a national contest called Ben's Beginners!  They are calling for parents with children ages 5-12 to submit a short 2-3 minute video of you cooking a rice-based dish with your children.  If you enter, you could win $20,000, along with a $50,000 grant towards a cafeteria makeover for your child's school.  You also will get a chance to appear on The Rachel Ray show!  For more information about the contest, check out Ben’s Beginners on Facebook.

If you enter tell me all about it, I'll wait and hope to get a similar opportunity with my little guy when he is older since we don't quite meet age requirements yet. :) 

*I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Uncle Ben’s blogging program, for 6,000 My SocialMoms Rewards Points. For more information on how you can participate, click here