Expand your horizons: cooking projects and techniques to try with your kids

Got a kid who's not a daredevil with their menu? Here are some of our favourite projects and techniques for encouraging your kid to try new foods—and to have fun doing it!

Photo credit: Tim Pierce (original image: http://bit.ly/1rbJxum) CC Licence 2.0

When the New York Times’ parenting blog published 14 kid-friendly meals that can be ready in 30 minutes or less, we read it with interest. But then tech parenting expert Alexandra Samuel published this tongue-in-cheek response, and it got us thinking: if your family’s list of no-go foods is longer than the weekend edition of the New York Times, how can you help your kids expand their horizons beyond eating (and cooking) the few things they like? Today, we’ve rounded up seven of our favourite projects and techniques to help your kids get experimental in the kitchen (or at least more involved!)

Beginner level projects to try:

  • Try a simple “smell test’ in the grocery store when you’re stuck in line with the kids—hold some of your produce buys up to their noses and challenge them to guess what it is based on the smell. No peeking! At home, this is a good way to get kids interested in your spice rack—let them waft cinnamon or italian spices and let them pick their favourites to sprinkle  into your next recipe. 
  • “Preview” dinner: give them some vegetables to try from your cutting board as you’re prepping dinner. Not only is this a good way to get them interested in what’s going into dinner, but because they’re hungriest before dinner they’re much more likely to try (and enjoy!) what you’re serving. To level this up, teach them to chop up some veggies: we promise you'll have their instant attention!
  • Start small: give tiny portions for kids to nibble, or fill the cubes of an ice cube tray with bite-sized samples and challenge the kids to a taste test—which selections are sweet, which crunchy? For a kid with a “no green” rule, filling an ice cube tray with honeydew melon, green peppers, grapes, guacamole and cucumber can be a great way to—er—break the ice when it comes to the idea that all green things taste the same.
  • Give them the means to make their own lunch on a tray (here's how!). 
  • Take the kids on a seed hunt: gather fruit for a snack, and ask the kids if they know where the seeds are and what they look like. From hard peach pits to the tiny strawberry seeds on the outside of strawberries, this is a great way to get kids excited about the fruits you’re going to enjoy...and interested in how you prepare them for eating.
  • Let them be your food processor. Kids are homemade mixers: let them beat eggs, whip vinaigrette and carefully stir the tomato sauce as it simmers on the stove. Giving them a little risk is a great way to focus their attention, and to pique their interest in what’s being cooked.  

Once your kid is ready to move up their skills to a more advanced level, we’ve got more great projects arranged by skill level here, and by project type here. We love this tutorial on children’s cooking skill sets by age and this one on why cooking with your kids is important. For older kids, we love this read on 6 basic things every kid should know how to cook before leaving home. And for support to go along with these project ideas, head over to our Facebook and Twitter pages—we love hearing from you! 

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