How to Involve Your Kindergarten Student in the Kitchen

Are you running out of ways to keep your child entertained before kindergarten starts this fall? Many families have been home with their children for so many months in a row that they’ve run through all of their best ideas. As summer sets in, the state of Florida is oppressively hot which makes going outside a real drag unless you have a pool or access to the beach.
But don’t you worry we’ve got you covered with some easy, fun, and safe ways to engage your kindergarten age child in culinary adventures this summer. Many families choose to exclude their youngest children from cooking because of the inherent dangers of heating elements and sharp knives. But we think it’s a great idea to prepare your children early to learn how to safely and confidently work in the kitchen.

At St. Barnabas we know how important a healthy diet is to your kindergarten students’ education. We’ve compiled a list of tips, tools, and activities to make cooking with a kindergarten student safe and fun.

Kindergarten Appropriate Kitchen Stools
Unless you have an unusually large kindergarten student or an unusually short countertop, your child is likely unable to access the counter without some kind of support. There are lots of different options when it comes to kitchen stools. You may opt for a simple utility stool, but there are also specific kitchen stools made for children. Generally, these options include steps and a safety rail so they can’t fall backward. A simple investment like this may be just what you need to give you and your kindergarten child confidence.

Cooking Utensils for Kids
The toy kitchen you bought your children was a good entree into a love of food, but those utensils are unlikely to be useful in your kitchen. Depending upon the maturity of your kindergarten student you may consider investing in some child-safe utensils. For instance, you can purchase knives that look exactly like chef’s knives but are made out of nylon and have dull tips. Instruments like these are very safe, they’re often very colorful, and provide your child an opportunity to become familiar with the tool before handing them a sharp knife.

Of course, knives are not the only tool one needs when working in the kitchen. You may also want to invest in a child’s apron, some small plastic mixing bowls, spatulas, and even some plastic measuring cups. Think about what items you use most often in the kitchen and see if you can find a child-safe version of that. Getting your kids involved in the habits that you already have around cooking is the easiest way to make them part of the process

Involve Them From Start to Finish
The act of cooking a meal doesn’t start when you turn the stove on. There are so many steps that happen before the ingredients make their way into the pan that your children should be a part of. If you want them to know where their food comes from and to learn how to make wise food choices for themselves in the future allow them to join you in planning a meal from start to finish.

Do you meal plan? Invite your kindergarten student to sit down with you and think through your dinner plans for the coming week. What should you eat each day? How can you use similar ingredients in multiple meals? How can you make dinner fun?

Once you’ve compiled a list of what you need to prepare meals for the rest of the week, take your kindergarten child with you to the grocery store to pick up the items you don’t already have in the house. Then once you’ve returned and are ready to prepare tonight’s dinner I’ll have them to help you get out all of the things that you will need. This could be a fun activity, like a kitchen scavenger hunt.

Let Them Get Their Hands Dirty
It’s time to get cooking! It’s important to remember that not all children will have a great attention span for this type of activity. Assign your child tasks that you know he or she will be able to complete. Cooking should be fun and engaging and not end in a battle between parent and child. If your kindergarten child isn’t interested in chopping lettuce for a salad, perhaps she would be more interested in forming meatballs, or stirring sauce. Or maybe she would be perfectly happy playing in a little pile of flour. Either way, the time that you spend with your children in the kitchen will empower them to have more ownership over the preparation of their own food as they age.

Share the Credit
Last, but certainly not least. Celebrate your child’s contribution! We can’t say this enough, but cooking should be fun. When everyone sits down to dinner take a moment to thank your kindergarten child for his or her participation in the preparation of the meal. The better your child feels about the experience of making dinner the more likely here she is going to want to participate again in the future.

Inviting your child into the dinner preparation space is not just about them sharing the workload with you. In fact, it will probably cause you more work than if you did it yourself. There are so many upsides to sharing this time together. As busy as our lives are these days it’s easy to silo ourselves and miss out on small moments we can spend with our children. Allow the time you spend in the kitchen to bring you closer together. Be playful, laugh together, and enjoy each other’s company.

Exposing your kindergarten age child to different types of food, and to the process of making food is a great way to help them develop a good relationship with eating. If you struggle to get your child to eat work the rest of the family is eating, this may be a great way to help them expand their palate. For more information about our commitment to providing healthy lunches for our kindergarten through 8th-grade students, contact us today.

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