by Steve Pratt, LiveLighter WA Nutrition and Physical Activity Manager

father and kid cooking

Research shows that when kids are involved with food (from gardening, to choosing, shopping, cooking… and cleaning up!) they eat healthier. So if you want to ALL eat healthier at home (and teach your kids some lifelong skills and healthy habits) check out our top tips for getting the kids involved

Give yourself extra time in the kitchen

It’s going to be slow, and it’s going to be messy, and the food might look a little funny. If that’s not OK, maybe choose a different time. These should be fun, relaxing experiences for everyone!
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Read the recipe thoroughly...

and think of something that everyone can do. This might include “busy work” to keep little hands occupied. Like… stirring the flour, sorting the lettuce leaves or polishing the cherry tomatoes. This is especially useful if you’re cooking with kids of different ages or abilities.

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Pick age appropriate tasks

This will be different for every family, but these are our rough guidelines.

2- 3 year olds

Washing vegetables and fruit
Tearing lettuce and salad greens
Stirring dry ingredients or tossing salads

3-4 year olds

Mashing potatoes and bananas
Mixing together batters
Adding ingredients
Spreading

4-6 year olds

Measure out ingredients
Set the table
Kneading
Some peeling and grating
Using a butter knife on soft foods – avocado, mushroom, berries

6-8 year olds

Make a simple breakfast
Doing the washing up
Most peeling, grating and some chopping

8-11 year olds

Peeling, grating and chopping
Can make their own school lunch
Help to plan meals
Use the stove and oven with supervision

11-12 year olds

Follow simple recipes
Use the stove and oven

Teens

Could be in charge of making one meal for the family each week

Give young kids some choice… but not too much

The basic principle is that parents choose what’s on offer, and kids choose what’s on their plate. Try “which two vegetables do you want on your pizza?” rather than “what do you want on your pizza?”. You’re more likely to end up with a healthy meal that way!

Safety first (and last)

Make sure everyone washes their hands and ties back long hair. Be aware of all the hot, sharp and electric things around. Make sure the level of supervision is appropriate for the kid and the task!

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Food preparation has loads of teachable moments. From nutrition, to reading skills, measuring and maths, to team work and sharing. We’d love to hear about your favourite recipes for kids in the kitchen!