Build your child’s confidence by letting them help

Preparing meals for your family is about more than mere nutrition. Mealtime is a great time for families to bond, engage in serious discussions and lighthearted banter and just generally have a good time.

That family bonding can extend beyond the dinner table to the kitchen. No matter how young your children are, there are ways to incorporate them into meal preparation. Even the youngest kids can learn a great deal from the preparation of family meals, from how individual ingredients come together to create delicious food to the importance of careful weighing and measuring. Here are some age-appropriate kitchen activities to get your kids interested in cooking and meal preparation.

Ages 2-5

The amount of responsibility given to the youngest children will vary greatly depending on their individual maturity levels, but here are some simple things most kids in that age group can easily accomplish.

* Washing the veggies - You want your kids to eat their veggies, so why not introduce them to what you hope will be their favorite foods? This is also a chance for young kids to learn the names of vegetables - and their associated colors.

* Stirring room temperature ingredients - You do not want your young kids around the stove, but they can stir sauces and other foods on the counter or kitchen table.

* Spooning ingredients on to the kitchen scale - This simple activity is a great way for kids to learn about volumes and relative weights.

* Decorating cookies and cakes - You might not end up with a professional-quality dessert, but your kids will certainly have fun.

Ages 3-5

Children between the ages of 3 and 5 can take a bit more responsibility in the kitchen, although protecting them from burns and spill is still essential. Make sure all handles are turned away from the edge of the stove, and always provide direct supervision when the kids are helping out in the kitchen. Here are some fun tasks the kids can help you with in the kitchen.

H Washing fruits and vegetables - You can use this task to teach kids about the importance of food hygiene, and use the identification of the various fruits and vegetables to build memory skills.

* Weighing and measuring ingredients - This is a great way to give young kids a basic understanding of math and how it works in the real world.

* Using a plastic knife to cut soft ingredients - The kids can cut and divide parts of butter, slice strawberries for the salad and cut up mushrooms for your recipes.

* Mixing ingredients - From combining wet and dry ingredients for a cake to mixing the veggies for the salad, the kids will have lots of fun helping out. 

* Breading and flouring - Whether you are making fried chicken or getting those delicious fish fillets ready for the grill, the kids can lend a helping hand.

* Kneading and rolling dough - The kids will have a great time rolling out the dough or kneading it for your favourite recipes.

* Icing cakes, pies and other desserts - Again, it may not be a bakery-quality job, but letting the kids ice their own creations is a great way to get them involved in meal preparation.

Letting the kids get involved in meal preparation is a great way to bond as a family and teach the young ones about everything from food safety to chemistry. Even the youngest kids can grasp basic cooking concepts, and there are plenty of ways for them to lend a helping hand in the kitchen.