When it comes to cooking with kids, some parents might envision warm images of their child happily working alongside them on a delicious dish. Other parents might picture a big mess, a time crunch, and barely edible food. The truth is, most kids enjoy helping in the kitchen, and parents can use this to their advantage. Time spent in the kitchen allows families to bond. Parents can use this time to encourage their children to include healthy foods in their diets, starting with dairy foods.
The holiday season is the perfect time to put traditional recipes and kids together to create wonderful memories in the kitchen. Schedules are more flexible, allowing time to create a tasty dish without feeling rushed and stressed. “Many classic holiday recipes call for milk, yogurt, or cheese,” says Amanda Marsh, registered dietitian and nutrition educator with the St. Louis District Dairy Council. “And when you invite your children into the kitchen, you can designate age-appropriate tasks, like mixing milk into a batter or sprinkling cheese on top of vegetables.”
Key nutrients including protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin D are what make dairy foods such a dietary star. “Dairy foods are an important part of the diet because these nutrients help build strong bones and teeth in children,” says Marsh. “The kitchen is also a great learning lab because parents can introduce health and nutrition to their children. They can talk about balanced diets, healthy eating habits, and how food can help young bodies grow.”
Beyond nutrition knowledge, parents can reinforce concepts taught at school. Counting the number of ingredients can help with addition or learning fractions. Discussing the change of mass that occurs when melting butter, boiling water, or baking cake batter can help reinforce science lessons. And social studies can be brought into the kitchen by sharing stories of family recipes passed down from generation to generation. Reading can even be brought into the kitchen with books, like the Plump and Perky Turkey by Tessa Bateman, being turned into a fun, family friendly recipe that matches the story!
Even if everything does not go perfectly, try to keep the mood light. Don’t cry over spilled milk or an egg that gets more smashed than cracked. These skills will eventually come, and cooking with your child will provide many wonderful memories and quality family time.