One tried-and-tested way to encourage your children to eat a meal is to get them to get involved in making it. From a very young age children can help you cook: whether it’s sprinkling cheese on top of a pizza before it goes in the oven, stirring cake mixture, decorating biscuits, or pouring the cream on the strawberries for pudding, all these things help children feel part of the preparation and invested in eating – or at the very least trying – what you are making.
Some of my earliest childhood memories involve cooking with my mum, and I think it’s a really important, healthy way to introduce children to the idea that cooking is fun, creative and serves a purpose. Teaching them that with a few simple ingredients you can make scones, or a pasta meal or some tasty porridge sets them up for a good relationship with food and a knowledge that you don’t have to buy packaged, processed food to survive – you can make it yourself.
If I am in the right frame of mind, getting the kids involved in cooking is a pleasure. You do have to have the patience of a saint at times, though, I warn you, as you will inevitably end up with more mess and more hassle than if you just did it yourself! If you have the time though, it is completely worth it and really fun watching them learning how to do it themselves.
Littlest (4) loves getting involved in the kitchen and will happily put on her apron, stand on her step and get stuck in. She is a dab hand at cracking eggs, mixing, stirring and pouring, and is learning how to use the scales. I’ve taught her how to fold the flour into the cake mixture, flip pancakes and cut up carrots – yes, using a sharp knife. I figure if I teach her how to do it properly she will learn how to do it properly. Of course, I supervise, especially when she is near the cooker or using a knife, but I know how empowered she feels when she says ‘I did it myself!’ and the sense of pride that comes with it, and how that usually equates to her eating really well.
We recently made Buckwheat Pancakes for brunch. She cracked the eggs, stirred the wet ingredients into the dry ones, and flipped the pancakes all by herself, under supervision. When she ate them, she said – no word of a lie – that they were ‘the best pancakes I’ve ever had, mummy’. I think her pride in ‘making them’ was reflected in her enjoyment, and it was a highlight of my week. See her tucking in in the photo above, and cooking below. (The mess wasn’t too bad either!)
So, aprons on, mums, dads and little ones. Just have a damp cloth, some kitchen roll and your never-ending patience at the ready!