Kids in the Kitchen: Essential Cooking Skills for the Whole Family

By: Haley Duscha, RDN, CDN

Cooking can be an important part of eating healthy and finding variety in your meals, so it’s a good idea to get your child involved in the kitchen at an early age.

But cooking skills aren’t just about how you mix ingredients. They also include how set up your kitchen – and any aspiring chefs! – for success.

March is National Nutrition Month, and Connecticut Children’s Division of Nutrition is bringing your family the advice you need to eat well! Scroll to the bottom for more healthy eating resources.

Keep healthy ingredients on hand.

Many chefs believe that good ingredients are key to a good dish – and the same can be said for nutritious food.

The more healthy ingredients you have available, the more your child will use them when preparing snacks or recipes. For example, if veggies are in the fridge, your whole family will be less likely to let them go to waste.

> Related: Need Healthy Snack Ideas for Kids This Winter? Try Two Takes on Dip

Practice food safety.

Mom turns kitchen sink water on while son an daughter wash hands

Teach your child healthy habits in the kitchen.

  • Wash hands. You know the drill: at least 20 seconds with soap and running water, or as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
  • Make sure to clean and store all food properly at the right temperature. Unsure of how food should be stored or for how long? Check the package or ask a dietitian.
  • Limit cross contamination. Make sure to dispose of waste correctly and maintain cutting boards specifically for foods, like meat versus fruits and vegetables.
  • Wash dishes thoroughly and sanitize counters. Even if there doesn’t appear to be leftover food, bacteria can hide in plain sight.
  • Cook foods to the correct temperature. Unsure again? Read the packaging, check a cookbook or ask a dietitian.
 

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Try new flavors and foods.

This can be as simple as grabbing a new spice or different fruit to try as a family, or you can plan ahead for something more elaborate.

  • Commit to trying new ingredients or recipes. This can be once a month, once a week, or something in between, but make a plan so that you get in the habit. Ask for your child’s suggestions – they’ll be more open to trying something new when they’re involved in the decision. Sure, not every recipe will be a favorite, and you’ll have some trial and error along the way. But you never know until you try.
  • Work to expand kitchen skills. For example, you and your child can try cooking other cuisines together, or hone age-appropriate skills like beating eggs or (for older kids) chopping onions. There are so many cooking resources out there to help guide you, like phone apps, your family members, cookbooks, and cooking videos or tutorials. Just take a peek at your internet browser for ideas.

> Related: 4 Easy, Healthy Recipes You Can Make With Your Kids

Enjoy family meals together.

One of the best parts about learning new cooking skills is enjoying the results with loved ones. So when your child has worked hard to perfect a recipe or create something new, make a big deal out of it! Take the time to share it all together.

Related links

Learn more about our nutrition services!

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