Through the last two years of hosting summer field trips and summer camp, SFC’s The Happy Kitchen/La Cocina Alegre® staff has picked up a few tricks for getting even the pickiest kids excited about helping in the kitchen. Here are our tips, plus our favorite field trip recipe.
1. Practice safety first.
Kids have shorter attention spans, smaller hands, and less-developed fine motor skills, so adult supervision is always key. Let them cut softer fruits and vegetables with a plastic knife at first. Make sure they wash their hands not only before they start cooking, but any time they touch raw eggs, or their hair, or their mouth, or that weird leaf on their shoe. Kids touch a lot of things.
2. Try everything three ways.
Many families have a rule that kids have to try every new vegetable once. We tell kids that they should try them three ways. Some kids may never come around on the over-steamed broccoli on the lunch tray, but roasted broccoli, broccoli in pasta sauce, or raw broccoli with a healthy dip could be a winner.
3. Find what they like.
For one of our summer activities, we let kids sample a variety of spices on homemade pita chips and then rate them. Older kids could make notes (cumin reminded them of tacos and onion powder reminded them of flavored potato chips), and younger kids drew a smiley face for their favorites. Once kids know what they like, they can experiment with similar flavors and expand their comfort zone gradually.
4. Use recipes that allow for creativity.
The more kids participate in growing and preparing their food, the more excited they are to eat it. Letting kids mix, measure, and chop gets them invested in the cooking process, but giving them a blank slate sometimes can go a long way.
Use simple recipes, like the one below, as a starting point, and then let kids make it their own by experimenting with different flavors. Yogurt is a great base because you can add juice or honey or mint for a sweeter dip for fruit, or cilantro or garlic or parsley for a more savory twist.
Cucumber Yogurt Dip
- 1 cucumber
- 4 leaves fresh basil
- 2/3 cup plain low-fat yogurt
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Half a lemon
Peel and dice the cucumber (chop into small pieces). Chop or tear the basil leaves into small pieces. Squeeze the juice from half of a lemon, and combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well and serve with whole-wheat pita chips or vegetables.