A great way to help establish healthy habits in children is by including them in activities like cooking! When you are planning meals with children, try to include items from the important food groups. Explain the importance of making healthy choices, choosing chicken and fish rather than red meat, or substituting ingredients to create a healthier dish. Particularly in their first few efforts at helping in the kitchen, let them select recipes that the family has enjoyed in the past, so they can see what’s involved in preparing them.
In assigning tasks to your child, keep in mind that they need to be age appropriate. For instance, you wouldn’t give a six year old a sharp knife to chop vegetables. Nor would you let them remove a hot, heavy casserole pot from the oven, although they can carefully open the oven door for you. They can also wash veggies, mix ingredients together, or help gather ingredients and dishes.
Here are some other guidelines to keep in mind:
- Make certain that you or another adult is in the kitchen at all times when your child is helping out.
- When your child pares vegetables, show them how to point sharp edges away from them to avoid accidents.
- Explain how they should weigh and measure ingredients.
- Use the rear burners when cooking on the stove. Make sure that pot handles are turned inward so children can’t accidentally knock them off the stove.
- Teach your child the importance of using potholders when touching hot saucepans and other items.
- Shut off the oven and burners when you’re finished cooking.
If children are educated on how to be healthy and the reasons to do so, they are more likely to follow these healthy habits throughout their life!
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