Cook with your kids!

My daughter is turns three in a few weeks. Which means when I'm not weeping at the passage of time (WHERE DID ALL THE TIME GO?!), I'm marveling at the little person she's turning into. She's hung out in the kitchen with me from the beginning, and I know it won't be long before she's ready to do more than unstack measuring cups, bang spoons on the countertop, or roll out dough (with lots and lots of gusto!)I strongly suggest, as messy as it is, that you involve your kids, irrespective of sex, in kitchen duties. Whether they're two or 10, you can train up a little sous chef! Apart from detailing the many, many benefits of having your kids cook with you, do watch out for five simple and easily doable recipes your little ones can whip up in the kitchen with a little supervision from you.It's not just cooking a child learns in the kitchen. Children can learn maths skills, practice fine-motor coordination, make choices about nutrition, and of course, learn basic cooking techniques. Making foods from different countries is also a superb way to start conversations about other parts of the world.How you can get started and why you shouldThe community aspect of parents, grandparents and youngsters cooking together in the kitchen, sharing family recipes and passing secrets down from one generation to the next is a lost art. These days, it's hard for busy parents to even take time out to teach their kids basic cooking techniques.Experts, however, say cooking together has many benefits. For one, cooking with your kids can help get them interested in trying healthy foods they might normally turn their noses up at. It's true that kids will be kids -- they'll snack on chips at a school party or enjoy ice cream after a soccer game. But what is most important is how they eat most of the time.Encouraging kids to try healthier foods isn't the only benefit of cooking as a family. Among the recommendations in a recent American Heart Association report on overweight in children and teens were:
  •  Reducing the number of meals eaten outside the home.
  • Having structured times for family meals.
  • Offering healthier, low-calorie foods.
  • Involving children in meal planning, shopping, and food preparation.
  • Indeed, cooking with kids can be the gift that keeps on giving; it has both short-term and long-term payoffs.
  • Some of the short-term benefits:
  • It encourages kids to try healthy foods.
  • Kids feel like they are accomplishing something and contributing to the family.
  • Kids are more likely to sit down to a family meal when they helped prepare it.
  • Parents get to spend quality time with their kids.
  • Kids aren't spending time in front of the TV or computer while they're cooking.
  • Kids generally aren't eating junk food when they're cooking a meal at home.
 Some long-term benefits:
  •  Learning to cook is a skill your children can use for the rest of their lives.
  • Kids who learn to eat well may be more likely to eat healthfully as adults.
  • Positive cooking experiences can help build self-confidence.
  • Kids who cook with their parents may even be less likely to abuse drugs.
Getting your little one helping in the kitchen gives them a hands-on way for them to discover new flavours and foods, but did you also know that helping in the kitchen can boost your child’s maths, language skills and even their emotional development? Children use all of their senses while cookingChildren get the joy of creating a dish and eating it. Children use all of their senses while cooking; letting them cook helps them to be more comfortable with food and can make them healthier eaters. Creativity is key in the kitchen - let your child's imagination go wild! Mix in some maths!Cooking is a great opportunity to introduce some early maths concepts in a fun environment. There is so much mathematical language and equipment used during cooking; adding, reducing, weighing, scales and measuring. They can also learn concepts of number recognition, mathematical language, sorting, estimating and lots more.Cooking helps your child communicateYour kitchen is the perfect place to get chatting with your child. If your child can read, get them to read out the recipe while you gather the ingredients and materials needed for the dish. In fact, following the steps in a recipe helps children learn about sequencing—essential for good communication skills. Ask them to imagine what the dish will look like once finished. Will it look like the picture? Use lots of ‘describing’ words while you cook. Talk about how things smell, taste, feel, sound and look. Ask them how the mixture turns out once it’s been cooked. Reading a recipe with your child is an excellent way to help them practice their communication skills.Also helps your child’s emotional developmentPreparing and cooking a meal requires patience and care. You can show your  cooking a meal for family and friends is a way of giving and receiving love. Friends and family appreciate the time and effort it takes to make a meal. They also give lots of praise for the chef! Sharing a special family recipe, cooking for a holiday, or making special treats for a friend’s birthday are great ways of creating lasting memories that your little one will treasure forever.How to start cooking with your kidsOne good place to start is the first meal of the day: Breakfast. Evidence suggests that eating breakfast improves memory and test grades (some elements of a healthy breakfast are high-fiber and nutrient-rich whole grains, fruits, and dairy products). Pressed for time in the morning? Start cooking breakfast with your kids on the weekends, during the summer months, or on school holidays. For many of us, Dinner offers the best opportunity for cooking with our children day in and day out. So decide what suits your family best. And just how old do your children have to be to help out in the kitchen? Many start to express an interest in cooking at around 2 or 3, and that's not too early to start.Important Tip: Remember that the easier dishes are to prepare, the more likely the kids will try making them again. Start with things like breads, muffins, pasta, smoothies, and fun sandwiches. Slowly work your way up to the fancier stuff.Make cooking funIn order for cooking to be a fun activity for you and your child, you will need to plan. Try not to plan a cooking activity with your child if you need to eat in a hurry. Remember, your child is in control. Don’t stress out about the mess made in the kitchen - your child can have fun helping you to clear up. Let them pick an ingredient they like and build a dish around that.Sharing a meal your child has cooked for the family creates a special bond with everyone.A few interesting ways you can make cooking loads of fun:
  • Take kids shopping with you so they can choose the ingredients themselves.
  • Give yourself plenty of time, and have some spare ingredients in case mistakes are made.
  • Choose something that will be simple and healthy. It can be fun to make something that the children can make into shapes or decorate with a smiley face.
  • You can get plenty of ideas from child-friendly recipe books or even kids' cookery programmes on TV.
  • You can even help your child can make their own personalized, printable cookbook which could full of child-friendly ideas and recipes. They, or you, just need to fill in their details and select the healthy recipes they'd like to try.
 Here are some age-appropriate cooking skills your children should be able to master: Tasks_Cooking With Kids Fun Recipes To Try Out With Kids Quick Herby BruschettaThese super easy bruschetta are the perfect snack for the whole family and absolutely healthy.Quick Herby Bruschetta ProcedureWash 3 fresh ripe tomatoes, cut down the middle with a knife and remove most of the seeds and juice. Chop into small pieces, and add to small bowl.Tear or chop 4 fresh basil leaves into small pieces and add to tomatoes in bowl, along with 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano flakes and 1 teaspoon freshly crushed/minced garlic. (You could also use 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder instead of fresh garlic)Toast 4 bread slices to desired brownness. Spoon the tomato mixture evenly over the toasted bread slices and sprinkle with enough salt and pepper. Drizzle about 1 teaspoon of olive oil over the top of each tomato-topped bread slice. No Bake Coconut and Date BallsNo bake coconut and date balls contain just two ingredients and they’re super healthy.No Bake Coconut and Date Balls ProcedurePlace 1 cup grated coconut on a flat plate. Keep aside.Add 2 cups of coconut and 2 cups pitted dates into a blender or food processor. Process on high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, pausing to scrape down sides when needed. Remove from processor and roll teaspoon-sized balls. Roll in the coconut that has been kept aside.Two Ingredient Muesli BarsThese muesli bars have just two ingredients and they're so easy that even the kids can make them with a little supervision. They are so much tastier than store bought muesli bars. 2 Ingredient Muesli BarsProcedurePreheat oven to 180°Celsius. Line a baking tin with baking paper.Combine 3 cups muesli and 395 grams condensed milk, stirring well. Press into the prepared tin and bake for 25 minutes or until the top has just begun to turn golden. Remove from oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes. Cut into bars and allow it to cool completely before storing in an airtight container for up to one week. Three Ingredient Real Fruit JellyJelly is an easy treat to make for the kids, and you can be assured there are no additives with this easy three ingredient recipe that uses only juice, fruit and gelatine.3 Ingredient Real Fruit JellyProcedureIn a medium saucepan, place 2 cups (500ml) apple juice (you could also fresh orange juice to replace apple juice) and 1 cup frozen strawberries or rasberries. Bring it to the boil. Remove from heat and whisk in 1 tablespoon gelatine to dissolve. Stir through 2 more cups of apple juice. (or orange juice)Pour juice through a strainer to remove raspberry seeds and pour the strained juice into moulds or a bowl. Refrigerate for 3-4 hours, or overnight, to set.No Sweat Instant Banana PancakesDid you know you could make pancakes with just two ingredients? Yes, it's perfectly possible so grab some bananas and eggs and get cracking to make these fruity pancakes for a special breakfast.No Sweat Instant Banana PancakesProcedureMash 3 small bananas well. Whisk in 3 lightly beaten eggs until well combined. Heat a non-stick frying pan over a low-medium heat.  Pour in 1/3 of a cup of the batter. Cook until bubbles form all over the surface and flip. Cook a further 1 to 2 minutes and serve.Serve these with berries and yoghurt, maple syrup/honey and banana slices or even Nutella and strawberries.