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  • Further Education Society of Alberta

Learning to Cook as a Family

Cooking as a family is a great way to learn and bond over something we do daily, eating! By involving kids, you can nurture healthy eating habits, increase their confidence, share culture and family traditions, and even encourage picky eaters to try foods they helped prepare. It also builds early math, science and reading, through life skills like measuring ingredients, following instructions, learning about temperature, time and practising new vocabulary.

It doesn’t have to be daunting, either! On the surface, it seems like an activity that could be filled with stress and mess. It’s also important to practice kitchen safety and keep young children away from sharp knives and hot stoves. But there are ways to keep it simple and plenty of age-appropriate tasks for all ages.

Here are some tips and resources to get you started. Remember, you don’t have to use all of these! Pick what works and start slowly. Plan a meal around a favourite food item, or start by making a weekend lunch together rather than dinner on a busy school night.

Planning meals

Collaborate with your kids when planning meals and grocery shopping. They can help by choosing a recipe or a food to plan a meal around, with checking the fridge and cupboards for what you need, checking flyers to see what foods are on sale, or you could write a shopping list together.

Some extra inspiration:

  • Choose a favourite colour or movie and plan a meal around it

  • Choose a country and some new foods from the country

Grocery shopping

Grocery shopping can be a chance to learn! On a trip to the grocery store, have your kids pick something like a new fruit or vegetable to incorporate into a recipe. Ask them to help find ingredients, count the number of items being added to the shopping cart, or tick items off the shopping list.

Encourage them to notice all the environmental print: signs, labels, and logos on food items. Older kids can help by reading food labels and picking the healthier food, and you can help a younger kid to find a particular brand or type of cereal from all the boxes.

Preparing and cooking food

If using a recipe, read it together. There are so many interesting words to learn when cooking! Talk about what you need before starting. What kitchen utensils will you need to use? A whisk or measuring cup? What ingredients do you need? Cinnamon? Basil? Hearing and seeing words within a real-life application equip us to better understand and remember the words and their meanings.

Offer things to taste, it’s a great way to get kids trying and talking about different flavours (sweet, spicy, sour, salty) as well as textures (smooth, crunchy, etc) and make a physical connection to the descriptive words used.

Age-appropriate tasks

There are jobs in the kitchen, most ages. Younger kids can wash produce, count, measure, and hand mix. Older kids can stir food, grate, and even chop with some extra protection and supervision.

Canada’s Food Guide is a great resource with a comprehensive list of tasks by age:

Some extra inspiration:

  • Make homemade beverages like smoothies

  • Let kids get creative with presentation, arrange the food into a face or other artwork

Food related activities

If you’re looking for something different, there are lots of great food related activities you can do as a family.

You can try:

· Growing herbs and vegetables

· Watching a cooking show

· Taking a trip to the farmer’s market

· Picking berries or visiting an orchard

· Reading books about food and cooking, not just recipe books but stories

If you’re looking for more, there are lots of great resources for cooking and eating as a family. We’ve gathered just a few below as a start. Don’t forget to have fun! When you’re cooking with kids you’re not just making a meal - you’re developing skills, confidence and good habits for life. Maybe someday they will even cook you as delicious meal!

A few resources

Canada’s food guide:

There are lots of great food blogs and websites with family friendly recipes. These are just two Canadian ones:

Two fun children’s books that talk about food:

I will never not ever eat a tomato

By Lauren Child

Lola is a fussy eater. A very fussy eater. She won't eat her carrots (until her brother Charlie reveals that they're orange twiglets from Jupiter). She won't eat her mashed potatoes (until Charlie explains that they're cloud fluff from the pointiest peak of Mount Fuji). There are many things Lola won't eat, including - and especially - tomatoes. Or will she? Two endearing siblings star in a witty story about the triumph of imagination over proclivity. – Goodreads

Dragons love tacos

Written by Adam Rubin and illustrated by Daniel Salmieri

This scrumptious New York Times bestseller has a lot of kick! Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos. Unfortunately, where there are tacos, there is also salsa. And if a dragon accidentally eats spicy salsa ... oh, boy. You're in red-hot trouble. The award-winning team behind Those Darn Squirrels! has created an unforgettable, laugh-until-salsa-comes-out-of-your-nose tale of new friends and the perfect snack.

Our Literacy and Parenting Skills workshops are a great way to connect with other parents and learn techniques to strengthen your children’s learning and literacy skills. They cover all kinds of parenting topics, including food!

You can email if you’re interested in attending a workshop in Calgary.



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