The importance of cooking with kids..from someone WITH kids!

Cooking with your kids is about so much more than just preparing food!

Have you ever caught yourself saying..

"I won't bother, he won't even try that!"

"He won't like the texture"

"She will only eat oven food!"

"My kids don't like fruit/vegetables"

"They just want to eat the same thing every day"

"She will eat that one day, then, not the next - I give up!"

I can FEEL you nodding at the screen..me too! And as frustrating as all of those things can be, let me assure you - they are all NORMAL!! My son used to terrify me with how little he would eat and I felt like a total failure, sat at the dinner table crying whilst he refused to put ANY food into his teeny 2 year old body! I have a First Class Hons degree in Food Science, I am a Food and Nutrition teacher - but my kid won't eat more than one olive a day (at one stage THAT was a good day!!!). Yep I felt I'd failed.. but you see I didn't and neither will you, don't be too hard on yourself (say's every mother ever who definitely does NOT follow that advice!). Take a couple of steps back to where I said that it was normal, it is! What is important though is making sure that these phases don't turn into habits..habits are hard to break! Being a parent is bloomin' hard hey!

Fussy eating is part of children’s development. They don't know it, but it's their way of exploring their environment and asserting their independence (and their sass apparently!). Children's appetites correlate with growth spurts too, and they do NOT have the same preferences to flavours and textures as adults. That's why you may find your child wanting a concoction of strawberries, Vegemite, baked beans and fish (okay I made THAT particular one up, but you know what I mean!!) and they couldn't be happier, because as far as they are concerned they LOVE those things so why WOULDN'T they eat them all at the same time - see I told you their preferences are weird!

Now we understand a little bit (and that really is the tip of the iceberg of the psychology behind it all which I LOVE but don't want to send you to sleep!!) it's working out HOW to get your kiddos to try new foods without it all ending up on the floor or ending in the biggest battle of wills..which they usually win, let's be honest! My FIRST go to is GET THEM INVOLVED! There are SO many ways to do this, and honestly some of the EASIEST, and most basic approaches really do work the best!

Here are some of the things I have found work the best - Now.. my disclaimer.. My son is now almost 5 and I CANNOT AFFORD TO FEED THE KID!!!! He ate $23 worth of sushi yesterday for lunch, so honestly..  be patient, be consistent, be kind (to them and yourself) and DON'T loose your temper, go into the pantry if you need to scream into a tea towel with frustration but keeping your cool is KEY!

1. Ask them what they want to eat, discuss it with them and then use POSITIVE praise so the experience is seen as them making great choices (I mean, guide this of course if they are obscene!!!)

2. Use cookie cutters - now I appreciate this is random BUT it turns anything boring into an exciting version - it pimps up your wholemeal cheese sandwich into a Jurassic park t-rex sandwich or that watermelon into juicy minnie mouses - genius I know! Making food "Cool" ...because really, eating carrots to see in the dark like a superhero is pretty awesome,works SO SO WELL!

3. GET THEM INVOLVED - Now, personally I have found this the most effective! This involvement comes in SO MANY shapes and sizes and by varying your techniques day by day you will find that actually, your children are getting contact time with foods on a really regular basis, they are learning and taking 'Guided' ownership of their choices.. we've all heard the phrase "Plant the seed and let them think it's their idea" (I use this technique a LOT on my hubby too..don't tell him!!). Let them choose a vegetable to have with their meal, let them help wash their fruit, let them butter some bread, let them build fruit skewers, let them play shop with pantry foods etc. Gradually, they will WANT to help you prepare foods and snacks, and your guidance will help them make decisions. When kids are allowed to CREATE in the kitchen, they LOVE to eat their creations and are so so proud of themselves.. and so ..Cook n Create was born!!!

Not only does cooking teach kids.. well.. cooking, it also enriches their learning in so SO many different ways! To start, sitting down with your family for a meal that you have prepared together is a beautiful way for your child to develop social skills like sharing, talking and listening. It also encourages creativity, exploration, investigation, learning through getting hands on, messy and playing with foods to explore their tastes and textures within the remits of their comfort zones. There are endless opportunities to extend activities into numeracy tasks through weighing, measuring, dividing, portioning and enhance their literacy and oracy skills through reading recipes, talking through ideas, discussing their creations etc! Cooking and Creating is for children and adults of ALL ages!

I am SO SO SO passionate about Cooking with children, teaching them skills for life, helping them learn and how to apply their knowledge to their choices. Building Cook n Create is a really exciting privilege. My friend Char taught me what a 'Passion Project' was, and ..that hit the nail on the head for me!

Over and Out until next time!

Jess x

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