More and more my children are taking an interest in cooking in the kitchen. My seven year old likes to lend a hand, particularly when there is an electronic gadget involved whether it’s mixing, grating or nutri-bulleting – the noisier the better. And my five year old daughter doesn’t want to miss out either and grates carrots and potatoes beyond their first skin…but that’s OK – she’s very happy doing this task and proud when there’s nothing more to grate (literally nothing!) They both desperately want to be able to do the things that I do. So I say yes when I can to things they can do since driving is out of the question…What is a chore to me is a game to them because it’s a new experience.
“There is something very magical about bringing the kids into the kitchen and having that connection with one of the most basic human needs. I think we miss that part. We don’t need to over do it and make things too complicated. Give them something simple that’s full of nutrients.” Maya Flynn
Don’t get me wrong, family cooking isn’t a daily occurrence in our house, other commitments and time constraints don’t always allow for kids ‘helping’ in the kitchen. But after talking to Maya Flynn, a naturopathic nutritional therapist and founder of ‘Glow’, hearing her talk about what kids can get out of cooking, I realised just how many pluses there are and it’s something I need to be encouraging more often when I can.
“Kids love manual things, they love just being active in terms of discovery. ‘What is this texture? What is this smell? Why do you use this?’ It’s curiosity. When I was a kid I remember I loved sand pits and puddles. Cooking is the indoor equivalent. Kids are very touchy feely and the kitchen provides a space for them to explore.
Another thing is I think we have an innate sense of being purposeful in life. And involving kids in anything, not just cooking, but in helping around the house, or asking them to bring something from the shelf in the shop – it makes them feel needed. It’s like their little purposes in life. They enjoy being helpful and the praise they get. It gives them a sense of satisfaction.
I think teaching kids about food is an important part of their upbringing. We teach kids how to read, count and multiply. They do very complex things in school but food is like breathing – it’s a basic need. If we don’t eat, we won’t survive. So why don’t we teach our kids how to cook? And cook whole foods, proper meals. Cook things which don’t just only let them live longer better lives but also enhance their learning capabilities and happiness in the moment. So many kids are missing their spark and it could simply be that they don’t have a good diet.”
“Food education is about the whole experience. In order for you to be happy, to enjoy the pleasures in life and to even develop hobbies, interests and to be in to something, you need fuel. You need fuel to build passion.”
As a teacher, I know how easily the kitchen can become an extension of the classroom without the kids even realising it. Weighing, counting, multiplying and converting metrics (for the older ones) as well as the fine motor skills they’re using when stirring and pouring are essential to child development. It’s easy to add challenges, ‘If I double the quantity, how much will there be?’ The opportunities to ask questions from a whole variety of subjects is endless, ‘Can you spell milk?’ ‘What do trees need to grow this fruit?’ ‘What makes honey?’ You can deepen their understanding of the world and the environment in which they live, through the food that they prepare. Maya suggests even reading labels can add an interesting viewpoint: “What’s in that jam again?…’x-a-n’…If you cannot read it, (the ingredient) pronounce it correctly or your Grannie hasn’t heard of it, it’s probably not a good jam!” For Maya, choosing products which have been processed the least is certainly more ideal than those that contain scientific jargon, which to be honest, I haven’t got a clue what half of it is!
However, it’s one thing getting the kids into the kitchen to prepare their food but it maybe another to get them to eat it. Maya says: “Children are often picky eaters and it’s easy to assume they wont eat x, y and z. And so they don’t really get given the chance to try anything different. It can be a challenge to try something new but nobody said it’s not going to work. I think there is a lot to it, from building habits to training the palate to enjoy different textures. If they have control and feel that someone’s listening to them, they feel they have choices. It’s about building a good connection with food and having a healthy relationship with food.” My experience is that children who prepare their meal and choose what goes in it are more likely to eat the finished product. It certainly worked for me after making cauliflower and broccoli cheese together with my son recently.
For those who want to get the kids in this kitchen, Maya suggests starting with simple foods children enjoy, that use natural, whole (i.e. unprocessed) foods – sweeter breakfasts being a good meal to start. Without complexity involved, you’ll keep your children interested and make things easy for yourself. She has kindly written some delicious recipes to try out at home that we will be sharing with you next Tuesday.
Maya is available here in Mallorca for advice on food and nutrition consultancy. She is certainly a walking advert for her company ‘Glow’, as from the inside out, she literally glows and I immediately warmed to her. She is undeniably passionate about food as she continues to develop her wealth of knowledge, studying shorter courses in her field of expertise. Of particular importance and her specialty is the health of the gut, which is where she believes all diseases begin: https://www.welcometoglow.com/blog-1/2018/11/29/how-all-disease-begins-in-the-gut
Written by Gemma Sherlock
About the author
After many years of moving around, Gemma, her husband and 2 children settled in Mallorca.
She loves exploring novels and plays, words and meanings and writing in a variety of ways. Not realising that it was something that she would miss, Gemma is happy to have found a new outlet in Nourish.
Why Nourish the Kids? Words, language and especially writing have always been a focus and priority for Gemma.
She likes to express herself thoughtfully and with clarity whether writing or speaking and enjoys discussing and researching new ideas and topics, particularly when it comes to health and well-being.
Likes: Circuit training, pilates, cooking from Ottolenghi books, pukka tea, hummus, reflexology, the audible app, Spanish lessons at MTA and thoughtfulness.