10 Ways to Get the Kids in the Kitchen

Let's face it, cooking in the summer can be a bore and a chore. However, it can also be a fun exercise for the whole family. These days, there is a lot of news about the obesity epidemic in our country, especially among our children. One of the best ways to combat the issue is by preparing and eating healthy meals at home. Take advantage of summer's relaxed schedule and bring the kids into the kitchen for some life(style) changing fun! When they realize how easy it is to create a fresh, healthy meal, they'll wave goodbye to drive-thru cravings. Plus, it will be a fun change for you and a great way to recruit some all-year kitchen help. Here are 10 simple ways to get the kids in the kitchen: 1. Involve them in planning. Ask the kids to help you create the week's menu, but be willing to go along with their requests, especially in the beginning. If they choose chicken nuggets and pizza every day, so be it. Meet them where they are at. They will love the chance to make the decisions and you can almost always find healthy recipes for all of their favorites. Once you've established a routine and sustained excitement on their part, you can introduce new foods and more variety. 2. Go surfing. The Internet is the world's biggest recipe box. Pull up a few chairs to the computer desk and search together for fun new recipes or healthy alternatives to their not-so-healthy favorites. 3. Take them to the store. Prepare your shopping list and load up the kids. Let them be involved in selecting the ingredients from the store shelves and farmers markets. Take the opportunity to teach them how to select ripe produce, and comparison shop for the best prices. Let them cut coupons and participate in the checkout process as well. 4. Manage, don't micro-manage. Look for simple steps and tasks that you can delegate to the kids without much looking over their shoulders. They will enjoy the sense of independence, and if it freaks you out to let them choose mismatched dinner plates or peel a carrot imperfectly, well, then this exercise will be good for you too! 5. Recipe 101. Help the kids read and understand a recipe. Teach them that each recipe is kind of like a science experiment--follow the instructions and BOOM! you've made something original. This is a life skill they'll need, so don't wait until the summer before they leave for college. Take the time now. 6. Get creative. One of the most important kitchen skills you can teach your kids is creativity and adaptation. Once you've mastered a recipe together, talk about new ways to prepare it. Show them how changing a few spices or ingredients will create a whole new recipe, one they invent themselves! 7. Host a dinner party. Instead of inviting your friends over for a dinner party, why not let the kids invite theirs? Work together to plan and prepare a menu they'll be excited to share. Let them show off their mad kitchen skillz to their friends. Who knows, you may start a new trend! 8. Play Iron Chef. Make a family challenge, Iron Chef style. Divide into teams and reveal a secret ingredient that must be included in each recipe. One team makes dinner, one team makes dessert, and everybody wins. 9. Turn up the tunes. Every kitchen needs some good music. Plug in the iPod and let your kids play DJ during preparation and cleanup. The kitchen has always been your turf, so help them feel more at home with some of their familiar favorites playing in the background. 10. Oooh and ahhh! Nothing keeps a weary cook going like compliments and praise. Let them know how much you love the food and appreciate their help. They'll be begging to help again, guaranteed! What are your ideas for getting kids in the kitchen? Do share!
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