One of the greatest life skills you can teach kids is how to cook. It is something they will need to use every day, since we need to eat to survive! Getting them in the kitchen early is a great way to expose them to a variety of foods, ultimately setting them up for a lifetime of healthy eating. During this time of sheltering-at-home, it seems like a great opportunity to teach them these basic skills and use cooking as an activity to enjoy together! Illinois State University graduate student and dietetic intern, Jessica Schultz shares this article with some great tips on how to get started. 

By involving kids in planning and preparing meals, they may be more willing to try new foods, as well as increase their self-confidence by feeling as if they are contributing to the family. Take the opportunity to talk about the food as they are working with it. How is it grown or produced? Which food group does it belong to on the MyPlate? How does it smell, feel, look or taste?

Assign kitchen tasks based on the child’s developmental level. Each child is different and may not fit into these suggested age ranges. Some skills may need to be adjusted until the child is safely able to complete them.

Ages 2-4

Wash produce

Use measuring spoons

Mix ingredients with a spoon or their hands

Ages 5-7

Crack eggs

Cut using a small, plastic knife

Peel oranges and hard-boiled eggs 

Ages 8-11

Use a peeler

Open cans

Follow a recipe

Ages 12+

Follow instructions completely

Understand and know how to work kitchen equipment

Identify different textures and flavors

Cooking with your child can strengthen the parent/child relationship, and it’s quality time well spent!

Parmesan Zucchini Fries

4 zucchinis

½ cup grated parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon dried oregano

½ teaspoon dried basil

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

2 Tablespoons olive oil

Child and Adult: Wash hands with soap and warm water.

Adult: Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray and set aside.

Child: Measure parmesan cheese and spices and stir in a small bowl. Wash zucchini under running water.

Adult: Trim ends of zucchini and cut into 4 pieces each, lengthwise.

Child: Place zucchini strips onto the greased baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and then sprinkle the parmesan mixture over the zucchini.

Adult: Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes or until tender. Broil for 2-3 more minutes, or until the fries are crispy and golden brown. Serve immediately.

*NOTE: all steps designated as “child” require adult supervision and may not be fully appropriate for the child depending on age and skill level.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 140 calories, 10 grams fat, 200 milligrams sodium, 8 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 5 grams protein

Source: Simply Quick, Nutritious and Delicious Blog, https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/simply-nutritious-quick-and-delicious/2020-04-17-cooking-children

For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at https://extension.illinois.edu/ccdms , or contact Cheri Burcham at cburcham@illinois.edu Also visit the Family Files Blog at https://extension.illinois.edu/blogs/family-files

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