Tanya Parker-Pope wrote a post on the NY Times' Well Blog about getting kids in the kitchen instead of shooing them out. She interviewed Rachael Ray on the subject, since Rachael "regularly holds children’s cooking workshops and is the founder of Yum-o!, a nonprofit group that focuses on helping kids and families develop healthy relationships with food."
Here are a few exerpts from the interview, but go here to read the whole thing:
Kids love to bake cookies and fun food. Are they really that interested in helping to prepare full meals?
I think the importance of having kids in the kitchen is to expose them to something beyond cookies and snacks. It’s like a dumbing down of a child’s palate. By associating the fun of cooking only with sweets, you’re limiting the child’s experience.
You can make any food fun food. You can make vegetables cool to a kid if you’re mixing them up with something a child likes. If a kid says “What’s in there?” tell them, “It’s boogers and dinosaur guts.” Get a giggle out of them. If you want them to be excited about eating a veggie, put it in cheese sauce and get them psyched about the cheese sauce. Make a list of all the new foods you’ve tried and keep it on the refrigerator.
There are all sorts of ways to build healthy relationships with your children and food. You have to become more kid-like yourself. Think about what excites the child. It’s your challenge and your job to make food cool, fun and an adventure for them.
Most parents define “kid food” as the old standbys — chicken nuggets, mac and cheese, pizza and hot dogs. In “Cooking Rocks” and your other cookbooks for kids, how do you define kid food?
The point of a children’s recipe should be to teach them how to make something the whole family would enjoy eating so they get that self-esteem payoff, to see everyone is enjoying what their small hands and hearts have worked on. Chicken fingers and hot dogs are fine. Chicken fingers can be oven baked. They can be a nice part of a simple, fun dinner for everybody. There are lots of turkey dogs and all-beef dogs that are nitrate-free. If you want to put a hot dog in a quesadilla, fine.
When it comes to writing cookbooks for kids, I try to make the food sound fun and write complete meals that are as healthy as possible. I’ve been cooking since I was 12, and feeding kids and grown-ups since as long as I can remember. I cook very simple food.