Elizabeth S. Reames | 12/4/2008 8:24:24 PM
Kids enjoy being holiday helpers. This year, let your children share in planning and preparing holiday meals. Include some of their favorite foods as an extra incentive, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
Preparing their own food can help children develop an awareness of the importance of meals and snacks and an appreciation of good nutrition. Using their hands helps kids develop muscle coordination while the whole food preparation experience can help them develop self-esteem.
Children have to be shown and taught how to prepare food. The nutritionist says kitchen activities should be tailored to each child since no two children are the same developmentally. Allow enough time, and the skills will come.
Whether an adult or child is preparing meals, however, food safety practices are important for all age groups, Reames says:
– Wash hands in 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 and before preparing other food.
– Make sure perishable foods don’t stay at room temperature for more than two hours, including preparation time.
Reames offers these food preparation ideas for different age groups.
Ages 2-3. Wash fruits and vegetables, peel bananas, slice soft foods such as bananas and cooked potatoes or carrots, stir mixes or batters, pour small amounts of liquids into a bowl, mix with a rotary eggbeater, measure items such as chocolate chips or nuts, take ingredients from one place to another.
Ages 4-5. Open packages, grease pans, peel carrots, mash a banana using a fork, help set the table, cut cookies with a cookie cutter, tear lettuce for salad, place toppings on pizza or snacks.
Ages 6-8. Set table (with supervision), help plan meals and snacks, find ingredients in the cabinet or refrigerator, shred cheese, garnish food, measure ingredients, roll and shape cookies, set food on the table.
Ages 9-12. Help plan and prepare entire meals or snacks with supervision.
For related nutrition and safety topics, go to the LSU AgCenter home page at www.lsuagcenter.com and click on the Food and Health link. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.