Getting The Kids Involved!Mon 22 Aug 2011
Story by Joi Straaten
My three daughters, 14, 12 and 9, have grown up eating and preparing whole foods. They have been involved in the kitchen since they were babies in a sling, where they could watch while I made bread from fresh-ground whole wheat, or prepared a meal using foods from our garden. Their love of cooking and baking has continued and they are now sharing that love with their friends.
There is a group of kids in our neighborhood that all hang out together, ranging in age from 6 to 17, and including both boys and girls. This summer, my girls decided to involve all of the kids in weekly ‘picnics’. Each week, they would work together to plan the menu; from appetizer & drinks to main course and desserts.
They chose the menu based on foods they all liked and would have fun making. They would draw names out of a bowl to see who would be responsible for each dish and then decide who would bring what supplies. They had a big white board that they wrote out the menu and food assignments on.
Each Friday, the group of kids would show up in their aprons to our house with their assigned supplies and get cooking!
With a variety of ideas for menus, they have made Quesadillas, Pizzas (homemade dough and sauce!) and one week they even had a taco bar! They made taco-flavored ground turkey, using a combination of herbs and spices, NOT a pre-packaged flavor packet (some kids didn’t realize you could make your own spices!), and had blue taco shells, lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, olives, pepitas, salsa and soy sour cream for toppings.
And it’s not only savory delights - among some of their culinary treats is a beautiful fruit salad they made and topped with soy yogurt mixed with a little maple syrup, and shaved, unsweetened coconut, and Gluten-Free Oatmeal Dk Chocolate Chip Cookies - instead of wheat flour, they used a mixture of brown rice flour, sorghum flour and potato starch. The group does include some kids with food allergies (nuts, wheat, dairy), but that doesn’t stop them – they just figure out what they can substitute instead of those foods!
It is so great to see all the different ages and skill levels helping each other out. Some of the kids don’t even know what a teaspoon is, but they get support from their more knowledgeable peers.
I always like to hang around to hear the conversations during these cooking days, it always makes me smile! Clean-up is just as much fun to observe – they do a GREAT job cleaning up their work space, including sweeping, mopping, and dishes.
I’m glad that my girls are able to pass on their love of cooking to their friends. I think it’s great to get kids involved in the kitchen, including healthy menu-planning, giving them lifelong skills they can continue to build upon as they grow up.
About the author: Joi Straaten, Sandy from Utah, is a yoga instructor, Whole Foods cooking instructor and mama to 3 awesome girls.
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