Encourage Children To Help With Meals During Holidays All Year Long

Elizabeth S. Reames, Merrill, Thomas A., LaFleur, Kara D.  |  12/18/2006 10:11:16 PM

Kids enjoy helping prepare meals and snacks, and the process assists them in learning the importance of eating healthfully, experts say. (Photo copyrighted by PhotoDisk Inc. Not for download)

News You Can Use Distributed 12/18/06

This holiday season let your children share in planning and preparing food for special occasions, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames, who stresses that kids enjoy being "holiday helpers" as well as helping you all year long.

"Preparing his or her own food helps a child develop an awareness of the importance of meals and snacks and promotes the development of a healthy self-concept," Reames said.

"Using their hands to prepare foods also helps develop muscle coordination," she said, cautioning, however, "But cooking activities should be tailored to each child, since no two children are the same developmentally."

Reames says 2-3 year olds generally can help you with such tasks as washing fruits and vegetables; peeling bananas; slicing soft foods such as bananas, cooked potatoes or carrots; stirring mixes or batters; pouring small amounts of liquids into a bowl, mixing with a rotary egg beater; measuring items such as raisins, chocolate chips or nuts; and removing cans from low cabinets.

Moving to 4-5 year olds, the nutritionists offers these suggestions for activities they can assist with: opening packages, greasing pans, peeling carrots, helping set the table, cutting cookies with a cookie cutter, tearing lettuce for a salad or placing toppings on pizza or snacks.

Once children reach 6-8 years old, they may be ready to set the table with some supervision, help plan meals and snacks, find ingredients in the cabinet or refrigerator, shred cheese, garnish food, measure ingredients, roll and shape cookies or set food on the table.

The nutritionist says older children may even be able to plan and prepare entire meals or snacks with supervision.

"Helping to plan and prepare meals is fun for children and helps them develop an appreciation of good nutrition," Reames said. "Just keep in mind that following food safety practices is important for all age groups."

Among those practices Reames stresses for holiday cooking and all year long are:

–Wash hands with hot, soapy water before beginning food preparation.

–Make sure work surfaces and utensils are clean before preparing food.

–Wash hands, utensils and counter surfaces after handling raw meat, poultry or fish. Be sure to do this before preparing any other food.

–Make sure perishable foods don’t stay at room temperature for more than two hours, including preparation time.

For additional information about eating healthfully, contact an agent in your parish’s LSU AgCenter Extension office or visit www.lsuagcenter.com.

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Contact: Beth Reames at (225) 578-1425 or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu
Writer: Kara LaFleur at (225) 578-2263 or klafleur@agcenter.lsu.edu
Editor: Tom Merrill at (225) 578-2263 or tmerrill@agcenter.lsu.edu

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