This post comes to us from Eluka Moore, one of the creators of Kitchen Club Kids®.
Kids are natural gardeners. They love to play in the dirt, explore their surroundings, and are hungry to learn. Plus, gardening is a healthy hobby that helps parents incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables into their children’s diet more easily.
I started a small vegetable garden with my four-year-old son. In the past, he has shown a lot of interest in planting flowers. So, I decided to start a simple garden for him to pick out the foods he wanted to grow. I thought that if he was involved every step of the way in creating a garden, then once our harvest was ready, we could cook fresh, healthy dishes together. Ultimately, my goal is to establish good eating habits that will stay with him for a lifetime.
My son selected familiar plants such as strawberries, tomatoes and bell peppers. I encouraged him to pick out two others that peaked his curiosity. He selected cilantro and parsley because he said, “they were green and smelled nice.”
Since cooking is such a passion of mine, any time that I can share my love for cooking, I am all for it. I love spending quality time together while nurturing his natural curiosity of healthy foods; it really is a win-win for both of us. Thanks to cooking together, I have seen the teaching opportunities that my son can experience in the kitchen, while having fun!
Here are some of my go-to tips for gardening and cooking with toddlers. They help keep my son’s interest while learning and having a good time together.
- Share the prep work. This is an easy way to keep their attention focused on the task at hand. Have your child get involved in the planning and selection of what items you will grow in your garden. Go together and select the items at the store. They will have a lot of fun touching, seeing and smelling all of their options! When you are ready to cook, there are several ways they can keep get involved. Let them help with prepping ingredients, washing, measuring, pouring and stirring. More importantly, let them taste as you go. It becomes a fun way to let them sample your wonderful creation and celebrate the fact that you made something together.
- Forget the mess. This is a great way to let their curiosity run wild, especially when you are gardening and can keep the mess outside your home. Give them special gardening gloves (that they pick out themselves) and toddler-friendly tools so they can get a piece of the action – digging, sifting, raking and packing the dirt around plants. Expect that your kitchen is going to be messy after cooking with your toddler. To help with the stress of a messy kitchen, have access to plenty of towels and worry about clean up once the cooking fun is done.
- Do it your own way! Remember this is supposed to be a fun time for the two of you. So, don’t stress about going according to a gardening plan or following recipes exactly. Be creative and laugh it off when there’s a spill or a mishap. Take your time, and expect that it is going to take twice as long to complete the task at hand. And, as always, focus on all the memories you are cultivating along the way.
Eluka Moore is one of the creators of Kitchen Club Kids®, a recipe-adventure storybook collection that is designed to take young kids and parents on a fun cooking adventure, introducing important cooking and counting fundamentals while promoting healthy eating habits. She has co-authored two books in the series, End of the Rainbow Fruit Salad and Garden Safari Vegetable Soup.
To learn more, visit www.kitchenclubkids.com.