Yes, you can make homemade meals with kids underfoot! How? By getting them involved in the meal prep. It’s also a great way to spend some positive time interacting with your child while teaching them valuable life skills.

According to multiple studies on children’s eating habits and involvement in the kitchen, children who have a hand in preparing the food they eat are more likely to consume more fruits and vegetables, are more willing to try new foods, and are more confident in their kitchen skills.

Another study by Nestlé found that children who helped prepare meals ate approximately 76% more salad than those who didn’t. Who says kids hate eating their veggies?

“When prepping dinner there are a few ways to involve the kids to make a day of cooking fun for everyone,” says Rosanne Longo, Longo’s spokesperson. “One of the best ways to get kids excited about helping prepare the feast is to get them involved in every step of the process so that they can have a sense of pride when all is said and done.”

I also asked beloved Canadian cook, winemaker, television personality and magazine publisher Ricardo Larrivée for his tips to get kids involved in the kitchen.

When I spoke with him in 2014, he said that one of the best ways to teach kids about food is to cook with them. “I love when kids and people are cooking together and they’re trying new things because it works on their self-esteem,” he said. “There’s nothing better than that when you have prepared something. Whether you’re 12 years old or 92, you feel great because you have spent time with the people you love.

Rosanne Longo’s tips for meal prep with kids:

1. Delegate tasks.

If you have multiple kids, delegate certain responsibilities that are best suited for each one. If one is more creative, they might enjoy setting the table, if the other is more logical, they’d likely enjoy measuring out portions.

2. Get help with decision-making.

Get your child’s help sifting through recipes to decide which will be used for side dishes — they usually get pretty excited about it, because they can share the choices they made with everyone at the dinner table.

3. Split the list.

Once the recipes are selected, ask for help writing out the grocery list and then if possible, bring them to the grocery store and assign them a portion of the list. Grocery shopping is a skill best learned at a young age and it will help them understand what to be thankful for.

4 . Get crafty.

For a special meal, ask them to create a fun centrepiece or place cards of their choosing for a fun table setting they can be proud of.

5. Get their hands dirty.

Depending on their age, involve them in chopping, peeling, mixing, measuring or even stirring. There’s lots of ways that they can lend a hand, but don’t be surprised if there’s a mess or two.

Ricardo Larrivée’s tips for meal prep with kids:

1. Give them the right tools.

Then let them chop, dice, and slice! Start with something easy like tofu to cube or carrots to peel.

2. Let them measure out ingredients.

This is a good way for them to learn about quantities (not to mention a great help to the head chef, mom or dad).

3. Let them choose the recipe.

They’ll feel empowered and they might surprise you with their out of the norm choice.

4. Steer away from repetitive tasks.

Don’t always have them setting the table or emptying the dishwasher. It might make them lose interest. Instead, lead by example: cook, bake, enjoy!

5. Experiment with flavours.

Add a few extra ingredients to your regular recipe. They’ll be more adventurous when it comes to tasting new things.

Do you involve your kids in the cooking at home? Share your experiences and tips with us on Facebook or Twitter @helpwevegotkids!

Caitlin McCormack is a writer, editor and full-time mama to one cool little dude. When she’s not spending time at the park or working on recipes in the kitchen, you can find her lifting weights, growing her own veggies, or enjoying some precious time with her shift-working husband. Read her blog at Big City Mama or follow her on Twitter @Caitlin_Writes.

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