Who would’ve thought I’d be sitting in the kitchen with the Little Shires making a group decision on what veggies we’ll be planting in our raised beds?
But I’m making the effort because I’m a big believer that if they know their raw ingredients & where they come from they’ll know how to put together quick, basic meals, thus ditching the high fat, sugar fast foods.
Our runner beans won’t win 1st prize in any summer fete, and last year our tomato plants died prematurely because of a lack of water, but what the process did do was to help the Little Shire’s understanding & respect of what they’re eating even if we have to buy some of it from the supermarket. *I told you our veggie haul wasn’t much*
I want to make my children self-sufficient, happy to get stuck in to making anything they want and be comfortable around a kitchen. I want then to enjoy cooking savoury and respect sweet things in equal measure, and have ‘healthy eating’ principles flowing through their DNA. At times it’s easier said than done, but research has shown that parents are the key role models when it comes to changing eating behaviours so I always encourage the children to get stuck in with me when they can – and want to – which is often.
1 Make your own little Kitchen – It’s OK to pretend you’re in Cbeebies ‘I Can Cook’ !
It can feel like the preparation takes longer than the doing, but it’s worth investing in this time if it helps the children feel comfortable in the kitchen as they’re more likely to get stuck in.
You almost have to make a ‘little kitchen’ for them. Mine have their own aprons, Little Mister, who is 4yo, has his designated mixing spoon & knife which are slightly smaller for his little hands, and easier to manage. I prepare areas of the kitchen so they’re suitable for the children, with extra stools so they can reach without being hindered & getting out the measuring cups rather than weighing scales. A bit of pre-prep and little kitchen equipment can go a long way.
2 Be prepared : more will go into their mouths than into the pot
I don’t think children can be around food without popping some of it in their mouths, can they? I encourage my Little Shires to prepare the veggies which they’ve either got from the garden or chosen themselves from the fridge, and they love doing it because it’s in their DNA to chop and taste!
I’ve found it great to encourage them to try new foods but on their terms, i.e without asking or making a fuss about it. In the long run I believe if they understand what their raw ingredients are and taste like they’ll know how to put together quick, basic meals, thus ditching the high fat, sugar fast foods.
3. Given them credit – given them a knife*
Little Mister is four years old and *under supervision* chops our carrots for dinner. They’re not the neatest or the smallest but they are his, and can be easily recognised once they’re popped into a Bolognaise!
Being proud of the component part they’ve contributed spurs my children on to want to do more. It does mean that we all have to pick out a ‘Little Mister carrot’ and eulogise about how much better it tastes compared to the others, but that’s in my job description isn’t it? Pride encourages them to want to do more. Empower them and they will do more.
4. Be uber-tolerant about the mess
Our kitchen is the heart of our home and it’s often the messiest, in an organised sort of way, but I don’t apologise for that.
My children can’t be tidy when they’re sifting flour or chopping cheese. So I’ve learnt to suspend my want to clean and wipe as they go along. I think this has allowed them to learn more quickly because they’re not worried about dropping things on the floor or making a mess on the table, and so just get stuck in.
I want the Little Shires to enjoy savoury ingredients, and see them as more than a side dish. We recently made carrot and raisin muffins, and added beetroot to a chocolate cake recipe! By shaking things up I find they’re curious and are more ready to try the finished result. And who said muffins can’t be wholesome & nutritious?!
I'm Tracey, nice to meet you. Mummyshire was 'born' three years ago after we moved from London to the Oxford countryside. Here I chart our journey adjusting to our new lives, the challenges of being in the countryside & surviving parenthood.
Thanks for reading