No matter what the age your child is, there are many fun projects and chores they can help you with in the kitchen. This is a great time to share together and teacher your children skills they will be able to use forever. Also, having your kids help you in the kitchen can help encourage a picky eater to try something new.

Basing tasks on the age and ability level of your child makes for a pleasurable learning time for all involved. As early as about 2 years old, a child can help in the kitchen by washing fruits and vegetables, tearing lettuce for a salad or wiping down the table. As they get older, they can help by stirring liquids, mashing up avocados for guacamole or opening packages.

By about 5 years old, they could be counting how many tomatoes you need for your salad, cracking eggs or even measuring ingredients for a recipe. Cutting, grating and learning how to use kitchen appliances can be added as your child has the ability to do the task and can understand the consequences of using the tools incorrectly.

Kids love to eat what they help prepare in the kitchen and are more apt to try something they normally wouldn’t if they are doing the preparation. They are also learning healthy lifelong eating skills they can rely on for their entire life.

Kitchen time can be a wonderful learning experience with your children. It can build their confidence, but is also a great time to share what we know. First, through helping in the kitchen, children at even a young age can learn why it is so important to wash their hands.

Children can practice reading while reading the ingredients, measurements and steps for preparation; then apply the skills necessary to make a recipe with your help. Cooking has a vocabulary of its own like saute, poach or broil. You can share with your child as you teach the techniques associated with these new words.

Math is also a part of cooking. Doubling a recipe or splitting it in half requires adding, subtraction and fractions, as well as practicing measurements. Science is seen in the cooking process as well in the reactions that create food, like the rising of yeast or the process of caramelization.

In sharing kitchen time with your children, you are not only teaching the skills of cooking, but also mathematics, science, health, vocabulary and reading, while having a fabulous family time.

I still have many fond memories of the times I shared with my mom and grandma in the kitchen. I still call them at times, to ask advice on techniques they mastered long ago. You too can create enjoyable learning experiences for your children, while developing a healthier lifestyle and wonderful memories for tomorrow.

Mandy Hatfield is the Nutrition Education Program Senior Instructor for OSU Extension Service of Douglas County. Mandy can be reached by e-mail mandy.hatfield@oregonstate.edu or phone at 541-672-4461

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