If you’re a parent, you’re probably accustomed to your children asking, “Is dinner ready yet?” from the moment you begin preparing a meal to the moment it’s on the table. If you’re not a parent, you can surely admit to asking your mom or dad these same questions at some point growing up. While it can feel like nagging, that interest from your children may be a great opportunity to get them involved in the cooking process—a benefit to both of you!
Research shows that children involved with home meal preparation demonstrate better self-efficacy and take more interest in eating the foods they helped make. Sold but not sure where to start?
In a recent article from The Bump, Alyssa Ardolino, RD, shares three tips to help make time in the kitchen go more smoothly with a toddler or young child. While these tips may not put an end to all of the questions, they can help make cooking more enjoyable for both you and your child.
Ask for Their Opinion
While you may already know what you want to eat this week, still consider asking your toddler to suggest a fruit, vegetable or starch that they want to add to the meal. If you ask for their input, they’ll feel like they participated in creating the meal, and they’ll be more likely and eager to try it.
Make Your Toddler Your Sous Chef
Give your toddler a hands-on role in the kitchen. We don’t recommend having them use any type of sharp utensils, but there are plenty of other meal-prep tasks they can safely undertake. Have them mix the ingredients of your salad together, or encourage them to help you assemble their sandwiches for lunch. It’s important to remember that the more they feel autonomous in the process, the more willing they’ll be to eat the meal or try a new food.
Cleaning up isn’t the most exciting part of meal prep—we won’t disagree with you. However, cleaning up reiterates that we should not take food for granted and that it should not go to waste. Having your children help with the clean-up process will remind them of the work it takes to make a meal. Most importantly, it will allow them to appreciate the food they are fortunate to eat.
Involving your child in the meal-prep process—from decision-making to the final step of cleaning up—can have a positive effect on their eating habits. This is a win for parents because your toddler is consuming a nutritious meal, and questions like, “What’s for dinner?” will finally cease. If they’re involved in the process, they’ll already know the answer.