The Many Ways to "Cook" with Your Kids

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Each summer my family ventures to Maine for a little vacation. We stay on a friend’s waterside organic hog farm; visit farmsteads and farm stands; and pass time with my colleague John Bagnulo and his family whose house, built into a hillside, is surrounded by lush food baring gardens, chickens and goats. So, of course much of our time is spent cooking and eating!

Among the many highlights of our trip was the visit to John’s. Upon arrival, my boys Jack and Hunter jetted out of the car to meet his boys. And without much hesitation, the little foodies were off picking blueberries.

As we, the adults, lingered in the kitchen and started cooking up a storm with the fruits from the garden, the boys came in with their bucket of blues contemplating what to create. After much discussion (among a group of 3 to 7 year olds), they determined that blueberry jam was the way to go. And from this jam they could make a fruit tart.

With a little help from their grown-ups, they combined the berries with a touch of water in a small pot and not so patiently waited for them cook down. In the meantime, they ground raw almonds into a meal that would serve as the main ingredient for the crust.

This sounds ideal and yes, in my minds eye it is. But, not everyone has a lush garden let alone access to fresh healthy foods. That being said there are still many ways to “cook” with your kids. A child who has a connection to food, from knowing where it comes from to how it is procured and subsequently made, will have a greater appreciation for eats and a healthier relationship with them throughout life.

As I always say, it is a parents’ job to educate their children about food and it can start by simply talking to them about it. Some other ideas to jump-start some true nourishment for you and your kids are:

  1. Visit a farm together
  2. If you can, plant a small garden or start with select herbs in a pot
  3. Take your kids food shopping whether to a farmer’s market, farm stand or grocery store
  4. Have your kids help put groceries away (even if you have to re-organize later)
  5. Plan a meal with them
  6. Cook with them, giving them very specific jobs (so you don’t lose your mind)

I often find that the kids who are disconnected from food have parents who are somehow estranged from eats (for one reason or another). So, perhaps “cooking” with your kids can help fix some age-old funky food habits. Not an easy task but one I encourage you to do—and if you need a little help, check out one of my go-to guides, Fearless Feeding.

As for the foodies in my family and John’s, the bucket of blues turned into jam, juice and a perfectly sweet tart that everyone enjoyed. Everyone’s ideal is different so determine what yours is and strive for it. In the end, you will be giving your kids the gift of true nourishment and that is priceless!

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Hunter getting ready to make basil pesto

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Jack cleaning mussels that he gathered on the Maine coastline

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Jack hanging out with Ferdinand the Bull on Bagaduce Farm in Brooksville, Maine