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Child Chefs! Teach Your Kids to Eat Healthy By Involving Them in Mealtime

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Healthy eating means healthy children. Picking nutritious snacks and developing good eating habits is essential at an early age.  Kids love to be little helpers in the kitchen, plus cooking can make them excited about foods they might otherwise be a bit wary to try. Take a look at these tips to make a chef out of your child!

Involving children in as many mealtime and cooking tasks as possible will give them a sense of freedom and make them more excited and willing to try new foods.

Here are some cooking tasks to try with your 3-4 year olds:

  • Measuring ingredients
  • Cutting with a plastic or dull butter knife
  • Squeezing juice from fruits
  • Shaking small containers, such as jars or zip-top bags, to mix ingredients
  • Washing fruits and vegetables
  • Coming to the grocery store or farmer’s market and picking out fruits and vegetables
  • Helping in the garden
  • Dipping foods into healthy dips

Making your own snacks in place of packaged snacks from the store just a couple of times per week can help children get the healthy foods they need without the fat, sugar, and excessive salt that could slow them down.

Instead of fruit-flavored snacks…Make Fruit Salad. Instead of snack or energy bars…Make Banana Crunch.

Meal time offers rich opportunities for kids to learn, grow, and improve development. Support your toddler’s preschool readiness skills with these meal time opportunities.

Improve motor skills:

  • Make sure dining furniture allows children to sit comfortably at the table.
  • Provide utensils that allow kids to eat successfully and safely.
  • Allow kids to serve themselves from serving bowls or plates. Provide child-sized tongs or spoons.

Improve language and math skills:

  • Talk about the colors, shapes, smells, tastes, and names of the foods being served.
  • Count the number of seeds in watermelon slices or peas in a spoonful. Ask how many slices of French toast or fruit are left after everybody takes one.
  • Have children play alphabet games. Ask them to show you all of the foods on their plates that begin with a certain letter.

Improve social skills:  

  • Set clear expectations about behavior at the meal table. Model good manners.
  • Let kids take some responsibility in setting up the dinner table, preparing foods, and cleaning up afterward.
  • Help children learn to be considerate of others by asking them to respect personal space and share at the dinner table.

Improve healthy eating behaviors:

  • Help kids recognize when they’re hungry and when they’re full. Allow them to get their own portion sizes accordingly.
  • Allow children to make their own choices from the variety of healthy foods you serve.
  • Avoid using food as a punishment or reward.

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