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My children are home from college for the summer, and as I watch my son cook a fabulous dinner, I thought I would share a little about how we got to this (delicious) point.

When my kids were little, I always heard parents complain that their kids just wouldn’t eat anything, that they were super picky and refused to try anything new. While there are occasionally underlying issues that cause extreme picky eating, I had trouble relating to my friends with normal picky eaters because my kids were adventurous when it came to mealtimes. I am convinced that is because they were involved in the process. Based on my experiences with my kids in the kitchen, here are my tips for getting kids to engage in cooking and expand their food experiences.

  • Start young. My kids began their kitchen adventures when they were tiny. From the time they could sit up, I gave them pots and pans, a wooden spoon and a few plastic food storage containers to bang around on. They stayed busy while I cooked, and they were in the kitchen with me “participating.”
  • Plan together. Every weekend we would sit down and look through cookbooks together or explore Pinterest for recipes. My kids each chose one recipe they wanted to make for the week ahead. We then made a grocery list so we could be sure to get all we needed to cook the recipe of their choice.
  • Shop together. Once we had our list, it was off to the store. My kids always took the grocery list with them, complete with pen-in-hand, so they could mark through the item once it was in the basket. That was a BIG deal at the grocery store.
  • Assign jobs. When it came time to cook, my kids were given age-appropriate jobs, things like helping to measure ingredients, pressing the “On” button on the blender, and setting the timer.
  • Taste everything together. Talk about how things taste. Notice flavors, textures, and colors. Afterall, we should all be eating the rainbow! Discuss how different things are being cooked and how that changes them.
  • Play Master Chef. Once the food is cooked, let them discuss what they liked and what they didn’t. Don’t settle for a simple, “I don’t like that” or “I really do like that.” Have them discuss specific things they do or do not like about the food. This not only engages kids in the process, it also shows them that you care about their opinions and how they feel.

Cooking with kids is going to require some extra cleanup and a good measure of patience, especially at first, but it is so worth it as you make memories with your child(ren). Before you know it, you will turn your resistant eater into an adventurous chef!

Here are links to a few of my kids’ favorite recipes growing up. These are kid-friendly recipes they can help make, taste, and enjoy.

Turkey Burger Soup:

Baked Chicken Taquitos: Younger kids can help pour in ingredients, and older kids can help roll the tortillas.

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars: These are a standard request not only with my kids, but with all of their friends too!

Bon appétit!

Alisa S., Launch Leader

Mother teaching her two young daughters how to cut peppers