WE ASKED LITTLE KITCHEN ACADEMY CO-FOUNDER/CO-CEO FELICITY CURIN FOR THREE KEY TIPS TO HELP PARENTS FIND FUN, ENGAGING WAYS TO SPEND MORE TIME WITH THEIR CHILDREN IN THE KITCHEN THIS HOLIDAY SEASON!
ENGAGE WITH SPECIFIC TASKS Meal prep is a big part of the holiday season and a great time to find new opportunities to cook with your child. Not only will you have some quality time together, but by being involved with preparing the various dishes (including vegetables), your child will be more likely to eat them! Depending on their age, children can help with peeling, grating, mixing, measuring ingredients and even cutting (with supervision).
Of course, Christmas baking is another great way to include little ones. They can help find, measure and mix ingredients for a variety of recipes. They can also help with decorating cookies which is a fantastic way to get them engaged in the kitchen while also exercising their creativity!
FREEDOM (WITHIN LIMITS) Freedom within limits is an important Montessori concept. It is the idea that our children can do challenging tasks by themselves if given clear expectations and instruction in advance. It also means that rather than stepping in and doing something for a child because we want to help, we as adults show them how to complete a task, give them the tools to do that task safely, and then step back, giving them the space and opportunity to do it for themselves, only stepping in if THEY ask for our help. This can be challenging sometimes for parents, which is why students get so excited to come to our environment where our instructors are trained to give them that freedom within limits. As parents, it can be so hard to watch our children struggle with a task, but the joy and pride they will feel when they realize that they can do something they never thought they could is so worth it!
A quick caveat on this point is that safety is always the top priority, so if you see your child completing a task unsafely, that is your cue to step in. Finding tools in the kitchen that add an extra layer of safety (like the LKA Child-Safe Knife by PRISE) is a great way to give your child that freedom within limits.
FUN (AND EDUCATIONAL!) We often hear from parents that their child won’t eat vegetables or refuses to try anything green, but what we’ve found is that in addition to engaging your child in preparing food (where they often will taste what they are prepping just out of curiosity), you can also make the process of eating food fun! One activity I always loved doing with my children was preparing a dish and telling them that I had made it using five ingredients, and they had to guess what each ingredient was. It gave them that extra challenge to try something they may not have considered before, but it also allowed them to discover different flavors and stop and think about what they were eating. Even better, it gave them a space to explore the language of food. If they couldn’t figure out what a specific taste or flavor or ingredient was, they could start to describe it and learn more about it.