As parents, when it comes to food, there’s a lot of confusion on what our role should be. Do we tell them what to eat? Do we offer choices? Do we let them decide how much to eat?
Believe it or not, our most important job related to food and our kids isn’t actually what we’re feeding them. Now, don’t get me wrong, we do need to provide them with nourishing, quality meals and snacks; however, our primary focus should be ensuring they develop a healthy, balanced relationship with food.
So, how do we do this? You need to model healthy eating behaviors yourself. Make sure your child sees you:
- Eating a wide variety of foods
- Eating fruits and veggies with excitement
- Making decisive food decisions and not showing signs of stress around food
- Talking about food and how it relates to health, not weight
- Being adventurous and trying new foods
- Being purposeful about food (intentional meals and snacks)
But, probably the most effective, and quite honestly FUN way to ensure your child enjoys food and doesn’t let food cause them extra anxiety and stress down the road is to get them in the kitchen with you! Let them cook, let them play, let them learn to navigate the kitchen with you! Let them experiment just the way you do. Here’s 9 Fun and Safe Ways to Get Your Kids in the Kitchen…
- Offer your kids choices. Let them decide on their snack, what veggie to have at dinner, or what new food you should get from the grocery store. Offer them choices (all of which you’re ok with), and let them decide. Give them ownership over the food you serve them.
- Let them help you prep different items for dinner. Kids can get in the kitchen as early as one year old. Let them scoop, level, and pour. Don’t worry about the mess!
- Encourage them to play with their food. It’s good for kids to use all of their senses when “investigating” a new food. Again, don’t let the mess stress you out. The fun and ease they’ll experience around a new food is worth it.
- Have them pack their lunches for school. This can start as young as early preschool. Use guided choices, like I mentioned in the first point, and let them fill their lunchbox with things they’ve decided on.
- Take them to the store and let them pick out their own measuring cups and spoons. Let them be in charge of “measuring” different ingredients for a recipe. When kids are allowed to help prepare something, they’re much more likely to actually eat it!
- Give them a spatula or spoon and allow them to stir ingredients together.
- For older kids, let them plan a dinner menu. From start to finish, help them decide what veggies, grains, meats, and dishes to serve.
- Don’t stress over spills, messes, mistakes, accidents, etc. Give your kids some grace and let them learn to navigate the kitchen.
- Clean up! Everyone can help in clean up and putting dishes away. It’s important for kids to see the entire cooking process.