Children belong in the kitchen

Children belong in the kitchen (photo from Epicurious)

Children belong in the kitchen?  ‘RealIy’?, I hear all the moms out there ask, as they imagine the mess and how much longer it will take to prepare dinner. What about the sharp knives and the vegetable peelers and the mess?

I am one of those.  If it takes more than 30 minutes to prepare, I would rather not cook it. So why do I say children belong in the kitchen?

Obese children!

13% of children under 12 in South Africa are obese!

I am a volunteer ambassador for the ‘Jamie Oliver Food Revolution’: their goal is to reduce childhood obesity 50% by the year 2030!

England has already banned the sale of energy drinks to children under the age of 16 because of the harm it does to their health.

Sugar tax

South Africa is introducing 11% tax on sugary drinks on April 1, 2018, to become one of only 20 countries to do this. While this may cause some consternation to those of us who are soda drinkers, as this will mean that your average 2l cola will go up by almost R2, it will lead to people buying less sugary drinks for their children. This sugar tax applies to cordials as well as carbonated beverages.https://www.beveragedaily.com/Article/2017/12/20/Sugar-taxes-The-global-picture-in-2017?utm_source=copyright&utm_medium=OnSite&utm_campaign=copyright

This is a step in the right direction to reducing obesity in children.

Children belong in the kitchen

This still hasn’t explained my statement of ‘children belong in the kitchen’.

On your next school run, get your children to count the fast food outlets that you pass on your way from school to home, then let them count the number of restaurants. How long was your journey, and how many did they count?

How many fast food places are there?

Now watch for the fast food adverts on TV during their favourite shows. How many were there?

Name that veg!

Here’s a tough one, take them with you on your next vegetable shopping trip. This was probably the worst part about having small children, going to the store with them. The refrains, ‘Can I have’, ‘I want’ and ‘I need’ still echo in my head and my children are all teenagers.

This assignment is for parents and children, so maybe take your partner with. See how many fresh fruits and vegetable you can identify? Obviously the younger they are the less they will be able to name. Parents how many could you name, have you ever tasted them and do you know how to prepare them?

This is why I say children belong in the kitchen. Learning to peel and cut potatoes for mashed potato instead of buying powdered potatoes or ones that come with fried chicken and gravy or as a hash brown on the side of your burger order, will teach them about the vegetable, how to prepare and enjoy it in a way that is healthy and delicious.

Children belong in the kitchen Photo by Hannah Tasker on Unsplash

Carrot salad, coleslaw, potato salad are easy to make for slightly older children but the younger ones can wash the veg so that they are ready for cooking or peeling.

What do vegies look like?

Having children in the kitchen to learn what vegetables look like in their original state, helps them to learn to identify vegetables as well as fresh herbs used to flavour the cooking.  Having them help with the making of those vegetables encourages them to try out their flavours .

Most of my children eat a variety of vegetables that are often unknown to adults. Things like beetroot, eggplant, parsnips and turnips, cauliflower, broccoli, spinach, kale, Brussel sprouts, celery, rocket. They know the smell of fresh basil and mint, of coriander and thyme, rosemary and oregano.

Meal Prep
Do you know your fruit and veg?

The older ones have even been known to request to try such vegetables as calabash and kohlrabi and even a madumba.  Not all of the requests have turned out successfully and some are definitely an acquired taste.  Edamame beans were a definite ‘no no’

The benefits

Getting children to help in the kitchen also has a few other benefits.

  1. Quality time, for working mom’s, or even individual children assigned to a different night of the week to help.
  2. Basic hand washing and food hygiene. A chance for both of you to learn together on how to prepare and store raw foods safely and how to reduce illness and infection.
  3. Developing the senses, taste, smell and touch. Listening to instructions and reading recipes.

Taking them with to the store and getting them to choose the vegetables required also helps with learning colours and for little ones describing the shapes.

Let children help with meal planning as this will get them excited about the meals ahead. It teaches planning skills. They know what’s for dinner and now can plan what prep is needed to get the meal to the table.

Do your children help in the kitchen? How early do you think it is possible to get them involved?

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