Earlier this week, our nutritionist, Garrick Brown, wrote about fun ways to get your kids involved in the kitchen. Building off his foundation, Kitchen Smarts this month is going to dive deep into the world of what makes a recipe fun to play with.
What makes a good food-play recipe?
Letting your kids get messy at the table is definitely a choice that depends on the age of the kid and what contexts you need that kid to switch between. I support you making less messy choices than I do. Even if you prefer tidiness from your tots, food play has wonderful potential to engage kids with food and nutrition. These are a few qualities I look for when I’m choosing kid-friendly recipes for the Guiding Stars recipe database.
Kneading dough, forming balls of energy bites or cookie dough, running fingers through dried goods like beans or flours: all good. Kids love novel sensations. These kinds of activities can pique kids’ interest in cooking. They can also provide motivation to practice a less exciting skill that is essential to cooking with your hands: stellar handwashing.
It empowers independence.
I like to look for recipes that have steps kids can do with little to no help. Even simple recipes like energy bites may require adult support for running a food processor, but seek out opportunities to let the kids take charge. Kids respond well to feeling capable. Give them a chance to practice new skills.
It has options for choice.
Pick recipes that let kids choose fillings or toppings. Look for flexible mixes that leave room for swapping ingredients. Find things that have malleable shapes. Kids are more enthusiastic about food they have more ownership over.
Kids can have short attention spans for cooking. If this sounds like your kid, don’t force the issue. Seek out recipes that don’t demand much more attention than they have. Short, positive experiences can scaffold interest in more complicated cooking as they grow.
It tastes good.
Our recipe database concentrates on foods that earn 1, 2, or 3 Guiding Stars, meaning they’ve all got good nutrition. Kids are discerning. If you want them to eat a nutritious food, it has to taste good. We strive for great taste in all of our recipes, but the kid-friendly batch aligns a little more closely, flavor-wise, with what kids might call “normal.”