Kim Johnson is mummy to six year old Aimee, and founder of Little Helper – the company behind the multi-award winning FunPod, a special kind of highchair designed to help children to reach kitchen worktops safely.
Here Kim explains how you can help your under fives become interested in food and cooking. Kim says:
Cooking with your kids is a great opportunity to spend quality time with them, as well as teaching them a basic life skill. Between the ages of two and five, children form their habits and opinions that stay with them through life, so cooking with them gives them a healthy food education at the right age whilst having some fun bonding time.
Here are my top five tips to get your toddler interested and involved in the kitchen:
1. Start by baking cakes. Cook some sponge cakes from scratch, and get your little one to help with weighing the ingredients, stirring and pouring the mixture in to the tin or cake cases. This is a fun activity and will foster an interest in general cooking. They will also love decorating them and of course eating their creations.
2. Make sure they are equipped. Give your child their 'own' utensils and apron so they can copy and mimic you and feel like a grown-up. You can use mini utensils like these for small hands.
3. Brighten meals up. Use colourful ingredients and get your sous-chef to help assembling ingredients for a meal. Carrots, sweetcorn, peas and tomatoes are all great for adding a splash of colour to a meal, and they are healthy too!
4. Grow your own. If you can, try and have your own veggie patch so that your child is involved in the growing process, to develop understanding of where food comes from as well as the care and nurture needed to grow your own produce.
5. Visit a farmer's market. One good way to encourage your children to become intrepid food explorers is to take them to farmer's markets so they can see what the foods they eat look and taste like at their freshest. They can meet the farmers and cooks who regularly work with such bounty, as well as sample a variety of delicious and homemade foods in an inviting, non-stuffy and fun atmosphere.
The important thing to remember when teaching your child how and what to cook, is to have fun. The tips above are simple but will help your little one understand the importance of food and a healthy diet.
And if you want to put these tips into practice, a tasty and healthy tomato sauce is an ideal recipe. It's a good foundation for many dishes (e.g. lasagne, bolognese, pasta, enchiladas, chilli – the list is endless!) and is quick and easy to create. Chop up some garlic and onions, place them in a pan with some hot oil and fry until golden. Add a tin of chopped tomatoes and some basil – why not ask your child to pick the leaves from the basil plant? My daughter Aimee always loves doing this. Finally, stir well...and you've made a basic tomato sauce! Add more veg such as peas, sweetcorn and courgette or meats like chicken and bacon to vary it. Trying new recipes means that you are learning a new skill; one that she will benefit from for the rest of her life!
The FunPod has been heralded by safety organisations and health professionals as highly socially responsible, and is an important tool in encouraging a food education with toddlers. For some fun and healthy recipes and to find out more, take a look at the Little Helper website.