When should you start cooking with your child?
People sometimes ask me when I started involving my daughter in cooking and the fact is I started involving her at around 13 months old. There are a few reasons I started doing that. I had to keep her busy while I cooked and I quickly noticed that she would remain engaged next to me for a long(er) period of time, which would give me the time I needed to put dinner on the table. That was actually the first reason why I started engaging her in cooking – she had so much fun playing with food, and I didn’t mind if she’d make a mess. It was a pretty good compromise if you ask me. 😉
Teaching healthy eating habits from a young age can help with pickiness
As a nutritionist my interest in offering healthy food for children of course grew with my daughter. And so, I dug deeper in learning about how to offer nutritious foods that young children will eat. My daughter was not only cooperative and very willing to help with cooking, but she also started showing a growing interest in food as we created our little daily routine of cooking together. She would “slice” veggies with her children’s knife, or rinse the salad; she would mix the bowl and add some spices to a curry. It is always fun and further fosters our bonding.
Developing taste buds
All kids like sweet foods, that’s an well known fact. And while I’m not here to tell you to never offer your child a cake or a sweet treat, because that’s all part of being a child, I do think it’s important for young children to develop preference for natural tasting foods. Allow me to explain. If you start offering your child sweets from an early age and on a regular basis, chances are they will not find fruits and veggies very exciting and might refuse them. The reason is that when their taste buds get used to such sweet flavors and textures, they will start craving it more and won’t find the same pleasure from plain fruits and veggies. So, while these foods (cookies, cakes and ice-cream) certainly can have their place in a child’s diet, they should ideally be part of a special occasion and they should preferably be offered after your child already likes eating his fruits and veggies.
Why toddler cooking classes
In my toddler cooking classes I try to implement all the things I have learned and offer recipes that children like, but that are also nutritious and good for them. By starting to educate children about nutrition and food we can really contribute to raising healthy, balanced children that will be more in touch with their food and bodies. This is the reason why I started offering toddler and preschooler cooking classes. I believe the best time to start educating your child is when they are really young. You are starting with a clean slate and it is much easier to develop healthy eating habits from the get-go, then to try and course-correct a diet later, when there are established food and taste preferences and the habit has begun to run its course in the daily life of a child. This is not to say that if you have an older child it is too late. Not at all. It is never too late! My point is simply that if you can do this earlier it might be easier. 😊
Educative but also develops motor skills
Cooking with a toddler not only helps them learn more about food and reduces the chances of pickiness with food, it is also a great activity that develops fine motor skills and requires concentration. All important elements for the proper development of a child.
With just a simple activity as cooking with a child, you can really do so much:
- Create relationship with food and make fruits and vegetables accessible and interesting
- Develop motor skills
- Increase bonding
- Improve concentration and independence
Just always make sure you are in a safe place when cooking with a little one. Avoid hot pots without supervision, no sharp knifes or sitting on a high counter without you being next to the child and clear out your kitchen so when mess happens (which it will!) you won’t let it ruin the fun. And if you don’t like a mess in your kitchen, just come to one of my toddler cooking classes! 😊
We’ll be making vegetable arancini at the next class this June 6th and on June 13th there will be raw berry cake. You can register for the classes here.
Making healthy food fun!
This is a recipe we did at our last toddler cooking class. It is a nice-cream recipe I often make for my daughter and she loves it. We call it a “smoothie ice-cream” at home, as I often make a smoothie and then freeze it in popsicle molds for later. But the recipe I’m sharing with you today is much more decadent, creamy and tastes like a real treat. It is sweetened entirely by fruit and contains a healthy amount of good fats and protein from the nut butter. It is super quick to whip up too for when a craving kicks-in or you just want to indulge a little. Here’s what you’ll need:
Healthy and quick nice-cream
- 160g frozen, organic strawberries (or any other berries)
- 1 ripe, frozen banana
- 1 Medjool date, pitted
- 45g pure almond or cashew nut butter
- some milk to get it going in the blender
- Place all ingredients in a high-speed food processor.
- Blend until creamy and smooth. If you need to help it along, add some milk (any kind) slowly until well-blended.
- Scoop ice-cream in cones or in a bowl to consume immediately or fill ice-cream popsicles and place in the freezer for later.