Growing up in an Indian household, the kitchen was always the heart of the home.
After school, once my parents came home from work, we all cooked dinner together. My Mum, Dad, my sister and I. We were all involved in some way and we all played our own part. We then sat down at the table and ate together too. Cooking and eating together was a normal part of the day.
My parents loved to make traditional Indian food so growing up, this was my main diet. We took weekly trips to London at the weekend to Indian food shops to get particular Indian vegetables and spices that were not so readily available where we lived. On Sundays, we prepared the vegetables together. I remember the worst job was peeling garlic gloves. My mum would buy a LOT and we would peel all the garlic, ginger and chilli to be minced and frozen in batches to be used over the next month or so. Now, as I run my own family home, I see the benefits of this food prep!
I am convinced this involvement in the kitchen cooking from an early age is what developed my love of cooking and was instrumental to me becoming the food enthusiast that I am today.
I really do believe you can involve children in the kitchen at any age in some way and help them to form healthy relationships with food. By helping in the kitchen, it opens up conversations around food and engages children, often to try new things. I like to think of it as just another way of exposing them to new foods, textures, tastes & smells.
If you are interested in involving your children more in the kitchen I’ve listed some ideas for kitchen activities for children at different ages. What your child can do in the kitchen is really very individual to each child and family and for their safety, I would always trial activities supervised initially and make an individual judgement based on your child.
- Stirring if able to hold a spoon
- Squashing soft fruits or cooked vegetables in their hands
- OBSERVING & LISTENING – try talking through what you are doing, talk about colours, textures, flavours
- Taste as you go along
- Encourage play through food… in my opinion it is ok to play with food sometimes!
- Washing fruit and vegetables
- Spooning ingredients onto scales or into bowls
- Kneading/rolling dough
- Hand rolling balls
- Mashing - a favourite with my boys!
- Using cookie cutters
- Tearing salad leaves or herbs
- Cutting – try using a butter or plastic knife first and cut soft fruits like bananas or cooked vegetables
All these activities will also help to develop their gross and fine motor skills
As children get older and develop further gross and fine motor skills, they may be able to grip and cut they can be involved with more activities in the kitchen:
- Peeling vegetables or fruits
- Chopping – maybe using a knife with help
- Measuring ingredients
- Maths weighing games for older children
- Cutting with scissors
From about age 8-9 they may even start to follow simple recipes themselves.
They may have their own repertoire of recipes they are able to confidently make or prepare with some help with using the hob or oven. For example, simple pancake recipes, cake mixes, scrambled eggs, pasta, pesto, hummus, etc.