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Cooking With Kids During the Holidays

With special treats and family gatherings, the perfect time to teach your child about cooking and nutrition is during the holidays!  Kids not only will get to try the new foods they prepare, but they also will get a big boost to their confidence when they see family and friends enjoying their creations.  Most importantly, cooking with your children will promote future health by teaching them about nutrition and how to prepare healthy meals.

Safety Precautionschild helping bake cookies

To be safe, cover a few ground rules before getting started in the kitchen.  Teach kids to wash their hands with warm, soapy water while singing two choruses of “Happy Birthday” to wash away germs.

Teaching Basics

Children helping make cookiesTo begin cooking, teach your child the basics, such as cracking an egg or gathering ingredients for a favorite holiday recipe.  Convey to your child the importance of measuring the correct amount of each ingredient and the different types of utensils you need to use.

Look Who’s Cooking!

To keep your children enthusiastic about cooking, assign tasks of a holiday recipe they are able to prepare based on their abilities.  Here are some ideas, depending on your child’s age and ability:

  • A mother and her children making Christmas treats togetherThree to five year olds: Mix together simple ingredients, snap green beans, tear lettuce for a salad, press cookie cutters.
  • Six to seven year olds: Shuck corn, use vegetable peeler, crack eggs, measure ingredients.
  • Eight to nine year olds: Use a can opener, juice citrus fruits, check the temperature of foods with a thermometer, pound chicken on a cutting board.
  •  Children age ten and older: Slice or chop vegetables, boil potatoes, microwave foods in the oven, simmer ingredients on the stove.

Christmas tree treats made with healthy foodsRemember to allow your child to gradually master cooking methods.  Start with simple techniques such as rolling dough, using a cookie cutter or spreading frosting.  Give your child time to work his or her way up to completing the entire cookie making process, from pouring liquids into batter to baking them in the oven.  Explain different methods for cooking and their purpose, such as baking versus broiling and how you would cook different dishes.

Lori Wiggins, UF/IFAS Taylor County Extension Agent III

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