Dinner Diva: When school’s out for summer, start teaching about food!

Pop quiz: How do you get kids to eat just about anything?

Answer: You get them involved in the kitchen.

There’s no surefire guarantee that your kids will eat something they have had a hand in preparing, but it absolutely increases the odds of them trying and liking a dish.

Get your kids right in there helping in the entire meal preparation process, right from meal planning to the clean-up. Cooking is an essential life skill and it’s never too early to get the children at the kitchen counter next to you. You’ll be surprised at how helpful they can be once they get a hang of things! And with summer break around the corner, dinner time is about to get a lot more casual and a lot less rushed making it the perfect time to get those kids in the kitchen.

Here are some ways you can get your kids cooking this summer.

Get planting. Give your children a good clear understanding of how much it takes to get food onto their plates by growing some fruits and vegetables together. Let the kids pick out a packet of organic seeds and involve them through each and every step from the soaking of the seeds to the transplanting of the seedlings into a larger container. Show them how much responsibility is required to get those peas onto the plate. This will give them a new respect for the food that they see in the market and on the dinner table.

Harvest together. If you have a food garden, get the kids out there with you pulling the weeds and harvesting the crop. Show them how wonderful it is to snip your salad greens from the earth rather than taking them out of a plastic bag in the fridge. Let them experience the joy of pulling a carrot from the dirt and rinsing it under the garden hose before gobbling it up. Teaching your children where food comes from is one of the most valuable lessons you can teach them.

Ask for input. When you sit down to plan your menu for the week, ask everyone in your family what meal they would like to include. If your 5-year-old suggests hamburgers, ask her what toppings you should have and what side dishes you should serve. If your teenager says they want that casserole they recently learned how to make, ask him what ingredients he needs and that you’ll pick them up so he can make it again. Everyone can’t have their way all of the time, but we all like to feel like we have some say in what goes on in our home — empower those little ones to make some of the decisions!

Take them shopping. When your kids are off for the summer, you may have to bring them with you to do the grocery shopping more often and that is wonderful. Use it as a learning opportunity. Let your 5-year-old pick out the toppings that will go on those burgers she wants. Tell her why you’re buying the local, grass-fed beef to make them with. Show the children the nutritional labels of the products you buy and the products you don’t, so they can get familiar with how to make better choices. Explain why you choose organic celery over non-organic celery even though it costs more. Let the kids take turns choosing a new fruit or vegetable to try that week. Kids are little sponges and they are “eating” all of this up!

Get help with the putting away. Tell your child why you’re asking them to put the celery in the crisper drawer. Talk a little bit about the vitamins and nutrients that are in that kale as you put it away. Explain that the tomatoes are going on the window sill so that they’ll ripen a little faster. So many opportunities for teaching in the kitchen!

Get them prepping. The 5-year-old who wants the burgers? Get those little hands washed up and have her help you mix the meat and form it into patties. Buy safety knives for your older children and let them chop the veggies for the evening salad. Have them thread the meat and veggies onto skewers for the BBQ and explain why they should put the veggies and meats on separate skewers if they want them to cook evenly.

Make your kids feel welcome in the kitchen. It’s okay to shoe them out every now and then when you’re trying to get something done, but more often than not, let them make a mess as they learn something new, and have them help you clean it up afterward!

A Dinner Answers subscription is a great way to get kids involved – each week the menu is delivered to your email inbox WITH a shopping list!

How do you involve your kids in the kitchen? Let us know on our Facebook page!

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