Cooking With Preschoolers

Cooking is one of the best activities for preschoolers.  It builds their self-esteem as they master tasks and skills, mixing and measuring the ingredients.  It teaches them about the foods they eat so they can make better food choices as they grow up.  It encourages them to try new foods as they prepare various recipes, expanding their food horizons.  Most importantly, they love to do it and cooking with your preschooler helps create a life-long parent-child bond.

Cooking with preschoolers is a passion of mine which is why my  new parenting book provides 100 child-friendly healthful recipes and 100 age-appropriate, eco-friendly craft projects, in addition to pinpointing 100 picture books every young child should hear.  The cooking experience is crucial because with each recipe your preschooler helps prepare, he gains confidence and competence and his sense of self-worth grows. 

What ingredients should we use?  The best that we can, of course!  If you are able to purchase organic, locally grown, in-season produce…I’d encourage you to do that…I believe such ingredients will add immense benefits to your entire family while creating a less damaging impact on our planet.   Organic or not, just make sure everything is fresh (check dates on dairy and other items…sometimes stores miss removing out-of-date stuff) and whether it is a snack or a meal, we want to provide low-fat, low sugar and high fiber combinations that are packed with nutrition.  It’s important that they taste good also.  However, taste is learned and we need to be careful of what we say and of our facial expressions when we are eating…many children develop food dislikes when they see a parent shunning a particular food. 

Cooking with preschoolers is a great time to teach proper hand washing procedures.  Make sure hands are washed before and during the food preparation process, especially if hands have touched raw meat or poultry.  And definitely exercise caution during the cooking experience…preschoolers should be pouring and mixing the ingredients in the bowls, not stirring the pot on the stove.  Any cutting with sharp knives needs to be done by the parent or other responsible adult.

I just came back from a wonderful week in New Hampshire…the New England fall foliage was at its peak…but the best part of the trip was the four days I spent with my two-year old grandson, Jeremy.  We walked down to the pond every day to see the ducks, skip pebbles over the surface of the water, and collect leaves of scarlet, gold, green and brown to use in craft projects.  He loved cooking in the kitchen…I’ve included one of the recipes below, along with the craft activity we did and the title of the story we read. If you’d like more story/craft/cooking ideas, you can go to the activities page of my website: http://www.positiveparentalparticipation.com/News.php 

CHILD-FRIENDLY HOMEMADE CHUNKY APPLESAUCE

You will need: 3 lbs tart cooking apples (peeled, cored and quartered), 1 Tb honey, 3/4 cup water, 1 pinch cinnamon or nutmeg, and a large saucepan with a lid.

  1. Combine the apples, water and honey in the pan, cover and bring to a boil. 
  2. Lower the heat and simmer till very soft and mushy, about 30 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle with a little cinnamon or nutmeg and serve hot or cold.
  4. Store in covered container in the refrigerator.  Use within a few days.  Makes about 4-6 servings.

The story suggestion for the above recipe is THE LITTLE ENGINE THAT COULD.  This classic tale of a little engine with a positive attitude helps preschoolers believe in themselves and encourages them to keep trying, even if they don’t succeed at first.  Jeremy loved the story…he is excited about all trains right now…when I finished, he said, “More book, Nanu!”

A container train with moving wheels is a craft project will enable your child to have a whole fleet of trains…if you both have the time and patience.   For each train car you will need: 1 clean quart-sized cardboard milk or juice container, construction paper, paste, scissors, markers and metal paper fasteners.  When we finished the train, two-year old Jeremy exclaimed, “My train, my train!”

  1. Depending on which train car your preschooler wants to make, cut the container appropriately (for example, for a coal car  – lay the container on its side and cut off the top).
  2. Cut a piece of construction paper to fit over the outside of the container and paste it in place.
  3. Cut out 4 wheels from another piece of construction paper and attach to the container with paper fasteners.  The wheels will be able to turn!
  4. Ask your child what the name of his train is (for example: Jeremy’s Express), and write the name on the side of the train.  Use the markers to add details to the train.

 For more cooking with kids in the kitchen ideas, check out http://kidsparties.about.com where Megan Cooley, kids’ parties and celebrations guide for about.com is hosting a blog carnival for the month of November.

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