Ages 2-5 Ages 6-8 Ages 9-12
Wherever you see this key, the activities have been carefully selected for the age groups listed.
The kitchen is where all the action is. It’s after-school snack central for older kids. The cupboards contain preschoolers’ band instruments (pots, pans and wooden spoons). And the kitchen is where everyone wants to hang out when Mom and Dad are cooking something good to eat. Getting the kids involved in mealtime mania early can teach them skills they’ll use throughout their lives.
Don’t tell your kids, but the kitchen also serves up lessons on organization, math and planning, as well as nutrition and meal preparation. “Learning can start before a family even gets to the kitchen,” says pediatrician and Advisory Panelist Dr. Lillian Beard.
Begin with the food coupons in the newspaper. Kids can hunt for pictures of items they’ve seen in their home to reinforce their understanding of the kinds of foods used in their kitchen. Younger children can circle the pictures, and kids old enough to handle scissors can clip the coupons. "This activity not only is a learning opportunity for kids," Dr. Beard says, "but it’s a true assist for parents."
The Power of Choice:
Meal planning is another way to involve kids, especially choosy eaters. Give kids a choice of foods to select — should green beans, squash, or corn be the side dish?
They’ll be more likely to eat what they’ve helped plan. Advisory Panelist and dietitian Laurie MacDonald says parents should make sure each option is healthful so kids have a nutritious result, no matter what food they pick.
The Whole Family Can Get into the Act:
Have the kids cook a weekend meal with your support to ensure safety around hot stoves and sharp knives.
An older child can act as organizer, following a recipe and telling others what to do next.
A new reader can practice by reading out the list of ingredients for a younger child to gather.
Don’t forget the toddler. He just wants to be near everyone else and will be happy playing with plastic containers and a spoon.
Kids of almost any age can help by oiling pans, filling muffin tins, scraping batter from bowls, or washing produce. And don’t forget the cleanup!
Try creating a fun taco or pasta bar. Kids can assemble and set out the ingredients — cheese, meat, tomatoes, olives, salsa or tomato sauce, onions, bell peppers and more. As they set out different foods, explain that meals with a variety of colors in them are more likely to be healthful than monotone meals. When the food is ready, family members can choose their favorite toppings.
Shop To Learn:
To extend the fun and discovery beyond your kitchen, let kids help with shopping. Dr. Beard advises starting in the grocery store’s produce section, where colors, shapes, and textures stimulate young imaginations. There’s something to do and learn at every www.
Discovering Shapes and Colors:
Ages 2 to 5
Most foods are still unfamiliar to kids this age. When you’re shopping for groceries, let young children choose new fruits and vegetables to try. Let them examine how a cylindrical, green cucumber is different from a round, yellow onion. Have them practice counting by picking out the number of potatoes or tomatoes you need.
Learning Weights and Measures:
Ages 6 to 8
Kids this age can use the produce scale to help measure the right amount for your family. Try teaching with simple word problems: “If this potato weighs 1?4 pound, how many do we need to make up a whole pound?”
Easing into Economic:
Ages 9 to 12
Older kids are beginning to understand lessons in math: “If three lemons cost $1, how much should we pay for just two lemons?” Ease them into economics with questions that help them think about spending wisely: “Which apples are the best value for our money today?”