Getting Kids Involved

(Originally published in May/June 2011 Issue)

Spring is finally here and as the sun brings energy to all living things, chickens start producing eggs with golden yolks and cows lay off the hay to graze on bright green grass. Local farmers bring fresh produce and meats to our neighborhoods, and we bring spring’s plenty to our families. This is the season to ignite lifelong interest in the foods we eat by showing our kids where food comes from and how we prepare it. Tactile experience will stick with kids as they venture from our carefully selected meal plans and enter the great wide world of unhealthy food choices.

While it is important to give kids the best nutrition in their formative years, lifelong dedication is what we ultimately aim for. We can achieve this by getting them involved. Head out to the farmer’s market on a warm weekend and let kids pick out their favorite fruits. Ask the farmers when they give tours where kids can see the diet of real animals on pasture. They will never forget the sight of lazy cows grazing on bright green pastures. Have a picnic at the farm to create good memories of the farm and healthy animals. While you’re there let the kids gather some fruits, vegetables, and fresh eggs.

With bags in hand, keep the momentum going in the kitchen. Invite kids to help with the preparation of the food you just brought home. Kids love to feel involved and they thrive on being needed. Give them a job to do and set up healthy associations with cooking. In time, you’ll pass on everything you know about the paleo diet. Be sure to tread lightly though; while some kids love helping out in the kitchen, others just want to go off and do their own thing. Forcing kids can incite some pretty nasty associations so we’ve got to carefully judge their interest. There are so many tasks that kids can do, it’s not too difficult to find ones to suit each individual.

Giving kids a job in the kitchen helps them learn.

  • Handing food from the fridge shows them which foods go into each meal so that they know exactly what makes them so healthy.
  • Stirring sauces is just fun!
  • Pressing the button on the blender shows them how whole foods are transformed into delicious dishes.
  • Garnishing with carrots or beets adds a colorful, artistic flare to the meal.
  • Measuring and pouring ingredients is a challenge of dexterity for little hands.
  • Taste testing sweet and salty, raw and cooked, bitter and sour exhibits the contrasts of ingredients.

Things to remember:

  • Have fun. Positive associations are the prescription for belief and belief is the key to lifelong commitment.
  • Be positive. You don’t really need their help. Don’t worry if they aren’t doing much. Just having them in the kitchen while you create a positive ambiance will leave a lasting impression.
  • Teach. While you’ve got their attention, take the opportunity to explain how various foods make you feel, what they’re good for, and where they come from.
  • Praise. Encourage kids to help in any way they can and let them know when they’ve done a good job or have come up with a creative cooking idea.

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