Enjoying a meal together as a family is a wonderful bonding experience. Taking this a step further and involving your kids in food preparation can be a fun, educational and nutritionally beneficial activity.

A 2014 study in the journal Appetite found that children who were involved in the preparation and cooking of a meal ate more of the food, including protein and salad, than those children who weren’t involved in its preparation. In addition, the children who helped out in the kitchen had greater positive emotions and felt more in control than those who didn’t.

So with the goal of greater consumption of nutritionally-rich foods, and happier kids, here are five simple ways to involve your kids in food prep:

  1. Get their help to plan the menu. Sit down with your kids and develop the week’s menu of meals, asking for their input. Work with their suggestions to see how you can make it healthier or suitable for the whole family. For example, if they ask for pasta, can you agree to it being Spaghetti Bolognese with a yummy – and veggie-packed – pasta sauce? Encourage them to choose the whole meal, including protein and at least three vegetables, rotating them throughout the week.
  2. Ask them to help with grocery shopping. Task your kids with finding specific items such as the vegetables they included on the menu. They may be more willing to see the task as a challenge or a race and get into it. If you have an older child who is tech-savvy, perhaps they can help do the grocery shopping online.
  3. Involve your kids in food prep at the kitchen bench. Being hands-on is how children learn, so ask them to help you crack an egg or stir the sauce. Give them tasks within their capabilities – and with safety parameters – but don’t underestimate their abilities or willingness to give something a go. Practice is the best way for them to learn.
  4. Grow your own food in your garden. There is nothing more impactful, both to the environment and to the growing mind of a child, then growing your own fruit and vegetables in the garden. It doesn’t take a paddock to be successful either. You can grow simple and common foods in pots on your balcony.
  5. Let them help with non-food tasks around meal times. From setting the table to serving their own portion, there are ways to involve your child in meal times that aren’t specifically about food preparation. Involving your child in the whole process makes it a special bonding experience and empowers them throughout the process.

Use these tips to engage your child in food and mealtime preparation and know that you are fostering an educational and enjoyable association with food.

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If you’re in the Brisbane area and would like more professional assessment and advice about how get your children loving food, visit me in the city for a Children’s Health consultation.