Involving children in meal preparation during the holidays

Holidays are a special time for families to get together. Often, children are left out of the meal planning and preparation as they are sent out to play with siblings, cousins or friends. However, children can learn a lot about teamwork and how to prepare healthy meals when they are included in the process. Allowing children to help plan the meals may encourage picky eaters to try new foods.

Menu planning

Have the children help choose what will be on the menu. Many families choose foods that carry on family traditions, and that’s fine to include these items. However, there’s nothing wrong with allowing non-traditional menu choices that the children will enjoy. This gives them a chance to have familiar foods along with new foods. Children can also be given choices when determining how the foods will be prepared. For example, a choice of mashed potatoes, baked potatoes or sweet potatoes would be valid options.

When many family members or friends will be attending, more food will need to be prepared. Have the children help with figuring out how much the recipes will have to increased to accommodate the amount of guests. This becomes a math lesson while helping them understand how to plan ahead financially for holiday meals.

When possible, bring the children along for the shopping trip. Give them a list of items or ingredients and have them help with collecting the items. Talk about difference in prices between various brands and sizes. Provide a calculator so they can keep track of what is being spent. Discuss the cost of the meal and the sacrifice that is being made so the family can get together and spend quality time with each other.

Meal preparation

There are many jobs for children to participate in when preparing a meal for the holidays. Make sure the jobs are age and skill appropriate, using safety as the most important factor. Some children can handle grating cheese while others are old enough to try peeling hard boiled eggs. Have them read recipes or directions of the food boxes, and practice measuring.

Baking is always fun for kids to get involved in. Making sugar cookies allows children to cut the shapes out and decorate, giving them a sense of pride when everyone marvels over their creations. Cake recipes are usually easy for older children to follow. Frosting a cake is fairly easy for younger children if it’s a simple cake. Give them a choice of what they can help out with and allow them to do as much of the work as they can handle.

Have them keep track of how long each item needs to cook or bake. Set a timer or have them watch the clock. When cooking meat, show them how to use a meat thermometer. Teach them to insert a toothpick in a cake to see if it’s done baking. Pay attention to detail regarding cleanliness and food safety, but be patient when teaching all that goes into meal preparation.

It is important to teach children how to prepare meals from a young age. They love to help the adults and take pride in doing a good job, especially when it’s something the whole family will enjoy. Preparing food for the holidays is a stressful time for those in the kitchen, but it’s the best opportunity to teach children to take part in important family traditions.

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