In this series, we'll be exploring how you can bring your kids in to the kitchen and help them explore the wonderful sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of home cooking! No matter how young, it's never too early to introduce your little one to a little kitchen magic.
Why Cook with Kids?
Introducing your kids to cooking at a young age helps to stimulate all their senses and build valuable life skills. Cooking with kids can:
- Encourage them to be more adventurous eaters by exposing them to new foods and allowing them to be part of the process of selecting and preparing meals.
- Build self-confidence by showing them they can help feed their family.
- Teach math (measuring and weighing), reading (reading a recipe and food labels), and science (cooking = chemical reactions!)
- Deepen your family bonds by teaching kids about your family’s traditions and history.
- Expose your kids to other cultures through their foods.
Newborns to 1 Year Olds
First of all, congratulations on the newest addition to your family! While your infant isn't going to be preparing you breakfast in bed anytime soon, they can still be fully immersed in the kitchen! Some ways to get your infant involved include:
Sights and sounds.
Say the name of each ingredient, describe what it looks like, smells like, and tastes like. Explain what the food looks like as it is cooking. Describe the sounds of cooking, and encourage your baby to listen carefully. The tea kettle whistle, microwave ding!, and sizzle sounds on the grill can be endlessly entertaining to the littlest chefs.
Babies love to hear your voice, even though they don't understand what you're saying. It can be hard sometimes to carry on a one-sided conversation, but talking about food is great inspiration, and if you're like me, it's something you can talk about for HOURS!
Once your baby is a few months old, let them touch and feel some of the ingredients. A bumpy avocado, smooth apple, spiky pineapple and fuzzy peach are a great way to let your baby feel their way around the kitchen. While they're touching, describe what the food looks like, feels like, and smells like. You can expand beyond food and let your baby touch measuring cups, wooden spoons (my daughter's favorite!), and potholders.
Avoid letting your little one touch anything hazardous like raw meat, anything hot or sharp. Always supervise your baby to make sure they don't eat anything they are not supposed to. Avoid anything that can be easily swallowed and be a potential choking hazard. I also recommend washing fruits & veggies off before letting your baby touch to avoid exposure to any pesticides, and wash baby's hands afterwards.
Time to taste?
After your baby has started eating solid foods (around 6 months old), you may want to let them taste or lick some of the ingredients. Spices, herbs, fruits, all of these open your baby’s palate and expose them to new and exciting flavors.
As you are getting ready to cook, you can select one or more items that your little one may want to explore. A sprig of parsley, lemon wedge, or a piece of onion to lick are all exciting ways to involve your baby in the kitchen. You'll be shocked with what they enjoy.
When my daughter was about 9 months old, I opened my spice cabinet and let her lick some small amounts of spices off my finger. To my surprise, she was OBSESSED with garlic powder! When she licked it off my finger her eyes got big and bright and she was itching for more. It was so amazing to see how she reacted to different flavors, and to this day she always likes food that I cook with lots of spices!
As always, be careful to keep baby far away from the hot stove, oven and sharp objects. Don't hold your baby while you are chopping, peeling, or otherwise cooking. Always talk to your pediatrician with any questions or concerns about starting your baby on solids, or foods that are safe to feed your baby.