This holiday season, let your children share in planning and preparing food for these special occasions. "Kids enjoy being holiday helpers," says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.
Preparing their own food helps children develop an awareness of the importance of meals and snacks and promotes the development of a healthy self-concept. Using their hands to prepare foods also helps develop muscle coordination.
Reames advises that cooking activities should be tailored to each child, since no two children are the same developmentally.
The nutritionist adds that food safety practices are important for all age groups and offers several guidelines:
• 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 says different age groups can help out in various ways.
Ages 2 to 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 egg beater; measure items such as raisins, chocolate chips or nuts; remove cans from low cabinets.
Ages 4 to 5:open packages; grease pans; peel carrots; help set the table; cut cookies with cookie cutter; tear lettuce for salad; place toppings on pizza or snacks.
Ages 6 to 8:set table (with supervision); help plan meals and snacks; find ingredients in cabinet or refrigerator; shred cheese; garnish food; measure ingredients; roll and shape cookies; set food on the table.
Ages 9 to 12:help 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.
For information on related nutrition, family and consumer topics, visit the FCS Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com/
Inst/Extension/Departments/fcs/. For local information and educational programs, contact an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.
The LSU AgCenter and the LSU College of Agriculture