By: Beth Thorson (Early Childhood Educator)
Dinnertime is a crazy time for families with small children. How do we keep them safe and occupied while getting a healthy meal on the table that the kids will actually eat? My best advice to parents is, train your little sous chefs to be your right hand in the kitchen!
Young children are curious and creative. They love nothing more than to spend time with the special adults in their lives. Turn this to your advantage.
- Before meals, ask children to help with menu planning. There are many great cookbooks with beautiful photos of the recipes that will allow children to choose wisely. Begin with a couple of choices and you’ll soon have a great repertoire of sure-fire hits.
- During meal prep, give your child the job of washing veggies, cutting soft veggies with a butter knife, setting the table, etc. This is the time when your mise en place (everything in its place) will come in handy. Have a plan!
- Serve meals family style. Allow children to choose how much will go on their plates and to serve themselves more when they’ve finished. Children love the control this gives them and are more likely to try new things when the power is theirs.
- Encourage children to critique the meal with more than a thumbs up or down. Was it too spicy? Did the texture throw them off? Did it need more salt? A little lemon juice? Everyone has food preferences. Respect your child’s right to not like something, though that doesn’t mean it won’t be served now and then.
- Recruit help with cleanup as well! Have your child scrape plates, bring them to the dishwasher or sink. Really little ones can sort the clean silverware into the drawer and wipe the table.
One of the biggest hits from my Winter Cooking class is a broccoli pasta salad.
Boulders, Trees and Trunks
Adapted from LANA
Approximately 8 servings
½ pound uncooked pasta, cooked
2-cups broccoli florets
1-cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup cubed semi-soft cheese, like Monterey Jack, Mozzarella or Muenster
¼ c olive oil
¼ c vinegar (cider or balsamic)
Place ingredients in individual bowls with tongs. Give each child a quart size baggies. Children will take a pinch each of pasta, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, and cheese cubes. They can add a pipette of oil and one of vinegar, then a sprinkle of seasoning. Children then seal the bags and shake vigorously.