A Step by Step Guide for Cooking with Children

  1. Food projects should be well planned so that the atmosphere stays calm and relaxed. Make sure you have all the ingredients and kitchen equipment needed before starting the recipe.

  2. Try to do a warm-up activity, such as playing a nutrition-related game or read a book about food.

  3. Introduce the recipe. Tell the children what ingredients go into the recipe and show them the various ingredients they will be using.

  4. Determine if any of the children have an allergy or food sensitivity to any of the ingredients in the recipe. If a child has an allergy and is unable to eat the snack, the child may still want to be involved in the preparation. The child may only be allergic to one ingredient in the recipe, and the recipe may be able to be modified to meet the child's needs.

  5. All children and staff should wash their hands. Staff should demonstrate proper handwashing technique.

  6. Review the use of cooking utensils. Demonstrate safe use of knives, peelers graters and cooking equipment. Use sturdy, plastic serrated knives for cutting fruits and vegetables.

  7. Separate large groups of children into smaller groups of 4-6. Give each child a paper plate and a plastic serrated knife. The goal is for each child to have a task to perform. For example, when preparing a salad, have one group peel and grate carrots, another group chop green peppers and celery, another group shred lettuce or grate cheese, etc. Vegetables and fruits can be cut on the child's paper plate and then transferred to a bowl.

  8. Allow children to do as much as possible by themselves. Each child has different abilities, skill and knowledge of food. You will need to spend more time with younger children or children who may never have prepared food before.

  9. The appearance, taste and consistency of the recipes will not matter to the children if they have prepared it themselves. They will be much more likely to eat an unfamiliar food if they have been involved in the preparation.

  10. Expect a mess!! Children learn more when they are allowed a relaxed atmosphere. All children should participate in clean-up.

  11. If time permits, play a nutrition-related group game or distribute a puzzle or do an art project.

  12. Have copies of the recipe available for children to take home on the day it was made. Children will want to share their cooking experience with their parents. It is an excellent opportunity to send a "healthy heart snack" message home with the child.

Taken from "Healthy Heart Snack Choices," a facts sheet from the Cornell Cooperative Extension; Cornell University, Plainview, New York