Kids in the kitchen; why you should be cooking with your children

SEATTLE -- Settling back into a fall routine means more family meals and a lot of food prep. A new trend to cook with your kids is making that sometimes daunting task, less of a chore and more of a teaching moment for picky eaters.

According to the New York Times, whether you are cooking with toddlers or teenagers, the benefits outweigh the patience it will take to work with your kids. By cooking with your kids you can encourage them to try more foods, teach them how to make healthy choices and empower them to do hard things.

Local mom and professional cook, Ashley Rodriguez, has been inviting her three kids to cook with her since they were toddlers. She is the author of Date Night In and has a blog called Not Without Salt. Although cooking is her livelihood, she still finds time to let her kids join her.

“The goal for me is kind of the lesson I was taught as a kid, is not to be afraid of the kitchen.”

Rodriguez admits it isn’t always easy to let them take the reigns, especially being trained in a professional kitchen. She says every parent has to learn how to let go, safely, so the kids can experiment.

“Sometimes I just have to walk away. I just want them to work it out and have freedom in the kitchen so they gain that confidence.”

She says that confidence is also giving them the ability to choose the foods they want to create and eat.

“We talk about moderation. ‘You had that for breakfast, so let’s have this for lunch.’ And the big thing is learning by example.”

She adds, “The moment you put something off limits, especially with kids, that’s all they want”

Rodriguez and her family have a small garden and pick their own fruits and vegetables. She says by “getting them involved in that, they’re more inclined to eat because they had something to do with it and it’s not just mom pushing it on them.”

Then once the family gathers around the table, she sees the big pay off.

“It’s something that I remember when I had babies and it didn’t seem like this would ever happen. Now that we’re at that point as a family, it’s really exciting and I love it.”

A recent Stanford study emphasizes the idea that mealtime is key to establishing a close knit family, especially in this busy digital age. Rodriguez says it’s also a great time to congratulate your kids on their hard work.

“Try new things and really encourage that. And applaud that when kids step out of their own comfort. They may not like it, but at least they tried and that’s a big step.”

Mother and nutritional therapist, Stephanie Vuolo, and author of Primarily Paleo, joined us in studio to provide tips on how to get your kids involved with safe and simple cooking tools.

To find the products Vuolo  used during her demonstration, check out her product reviews.

For more recipe ideas and kids cooking techniques check out the Q13 Pinterest page.