Why kids should learn to cook at a young age and how you can help them.
Lexi has been helping me in the kitchen from the time she could stand on her little stool and hold a spoon. In her 7 years I have watched her blossom into a competent young cook and baker. I have also witnessed the incredible benefits of teaching children to cook from an early age.
Why Kids Should Learn to Cook
More and more emphasis is being placed on a wholefood diet and healthy lifestyle. However, parents are still feeling overwhelmed and often resort to convenience foods. In our home I have focused on creating good food habits that are based on locally, seasonally and ethically sourced foods. And in my experience the best way to do this is to get Lexi to interact with food, from growing vegetables to preparing meals.
The benefits are incredible!
Cooking is an important life skill - Lack of confidence in the kitchen makes it a lot more difficult to prepare healthy meals for your family. If children can gain this confidence early on, they are more likely to be experimental in the kitchen and develop healthy eating habits.
Cooking gives children an appreciation for healthy food - Cooking together is the perfect time to talk to your children about food and to teach children the difference between real food and processed food. As you're cooking you can discuss the benefits of whole foods. I have found that this has helped stop any picky eating that started. Kids are always more willing to try something that they have prepared themselves!
Cooking is a great tool in the fight against childhood obesity - Childhood obesity in South Africa (and worldwide) is increasing at an alarming rate! Teaching our children to cook is a great opportunity to teach them techniques for healthy food preparation. Rather than teaching them to deep fry potato chips we can teach them to oven bake sweet potato.
The list of benefits goes on and on! There are the educational benefits such as math skills, reading skills and fine motor control.
Where to Start
A few years ago, I bought Lexi a recipe book of her own so that she could start building up her own collection of recipes as she mastered each one. She couldn't wait to start! But I noticed that as we started with slightly more complicated recipes her excitement and confidence waned a bit. So, to get your kids excited about cooking (and keep up the enthusiasm) follow these tips...
Invest in a couple of kid-friendly kitchen tools. Lexi loves donning her apron and using her special knife.
If you've got a hesitant or picky eater let them help you choose the recipes. Shopping together for ingredients also makes them more likely to try out new things.
Let them taste as you go. We go through a lot of spoons when we cook! Lexi likes to taste and then we discuss the different flavours. What works, what doesn't work and her preferences.
Let your child be creative! If they want to deviate from the recipe trust them and go with it. Not every recipe will turn out well, and this is a great way for them to learn what works and what doesn't work.
Start out simple! Before you start, assess your child's physical abilities and skills. Let this guide you in choosing recipes. I've found that pasta dishes are the best place to start.
Why We Choose Happy Earth People
One of Lexi's favourite things to prepare, and eat, is pasta. She adores the Happy Earth People range of pulse-based products.
Lexi and I have often discussed the importance of eating locally grown and produced food, and sustainable farming. I firmly believe that food grown, prepared, and cooked with love and care is better for us. And it is a philosophy that we embrace in our home.
Happy Earth People is a company that shares these values. They believe in a food and farming system that nourishes both people and the planet to health and happiness. Their products are eco-friendly (all their packaging is zero-waste and biodegradable) and gluten-free.
Their products are available from various retailers and on their website Happy Earth People. If, like us, you love their products and you want to buy in bulk they are available in 1kg bags on their website. They also offer penne that is not yet available in stores.
Lexi's Own Recipe
I challenged Lexi to create her own recipe for the first time by posing the question, "if you could add anything to your Happy Earth People pasta, what would it be?". The list I got back was long and interesting! It set us on a weeklong course of trying, and trying again, until Lexi came up with a combination that she loves. She could hardly wait to share it with you!
To get your child started on their cooking journey we have made a printable recipe card to start their collection. To print it, click on the image to enlarge and print.
Lexi's Happy Earth People Pasta Salad
Makes 4 generous portions
1 cup uncooked Happy Earth People pasta of your choice
1 punnet button mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbs olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic, crushed
1/2 cucumber, sliced
2 ears sweet corn, boiled and sliced off the cob
1/2 avocado, cut into cubes
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh coriander (optional)
For the dressing:
1/4 cup avocado oil
2 Tbs apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
Bring a pot of water to the boil and cook your Happy Earth People pasta according to the package instructions. Drain and set aside to cool.
Heat the butter in a frying pan and fry the mushrooms and garlic for 3-4 minutes. Then set aside to cool while you prepare the other ingredients.
Add the mushrooms, cucumber, sweet corn, avocado, mint and coriander (optional) to the pasta. Toss well.
Just before serving pour over the dressing and toss again.
For the dressing:
Mix the avocado oil, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, ginger, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Allow to stand while you make the salad. This gives it time for the flavours to develop and infuse into the oil and vinegar.
If your child is not a fan of ginger, strain the dressing through a sieve to remove the grated ginger.
DISCLAIMER: I was provided with a free product in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own and not influenced by the developing company, and / or its affiliates, in any way.