Editor’s note: Wellness Word is an informational column which is not meant to replace a health care professional’s diagnosis, treatment or medication.

Teaching Children How to

Nourish Themselves through Cooking

“I can’t believe I made this! This tastes amazing!”

This is the end goal of most kitchen experiments, to be sure, but especially poignant coming from a child who has been empowered to experiment in the kitchen and has achieved their version of success.

Is this a “pudding” they created? A “new cookie recipe” they found and tried? Regardless, it belongs to them and they are proud of it. In this time of packaged convenience food with flashy colors and ingredients we can’t identify, the importance of teaching children how to nourish themselves cannot be underestimated.

What an awesome opportunity for a child to acquire the life-long skill set of comfort and ease in the kitchen if only given the chance.

It doesn’t take much to start out; no fancy equipment is necessary to set a junior chef up for success. The hardest part for some adults may be the mere thought of relinquishing control of their kitchen for an hour or two, and the accompanying thought of the mess that will occur.

Fear not! Once knife safety, basic knife skills, kitchen sanitation, and clean up rules are established, let your chef play. If armed with a medium sized skillet, a chef’s knife, cutting board, baking sheet, and a set of measuring cups, the junior chef is well on their way.

Depending on their age, of course, supervision may be integral to the process or perhaps just a suggestion. To explore and experiment, to achieve different forms of success and to be able to troubleshoot a dish that “just doesn’t taste right yet” are great exercises on the road to building culinary confidence.

One outstanding attribute to cooking is that the kitchen is a great place to level the playing field for developing children’s abilities. It’s not a matter of how far a ball can be kicked or how fast a lap can be ran. Rather, any child of any age may come into the kitchen to learn how to cook and by doing so, build their confidence and skill set. All it takes is a sense of curiosity, adventure, and a willingness to try.

Finding a recipe they want to try and shopping for it can become a fun part of the chef’s experience rather than a dreaded chore on which they may accompany the adult in their household. It is exciting to discover something new… What can you do with dragonfruit or kumquats? What does turmeric look like?

In the treasure-hunt of ingredient shopping, curiosity gains momentum and interesting items are discovered. A chef can recognize where their food comes from on a different level when sourcing it themselves from the Farmer’s Market or grocery store.

Cooking is a wonderful way to eradicate food aversions that younger palates may possess. “I hate cauliflower” may give way to “Mmm….this is not so bad…” to “Can we make that again?!” when it’s in the context of an application in which they have participated and tasted. Spanish “riced” cauliflower is the perfect example! When the junior chef pronounces that this is “the best rice I’ve ever had!”, that feels like a clear veggie victory. The “struggle to get kids to eat their veggies” may not be such a struggle after all.

What a great way to give a child validation – to show them that you believe in their ability to create something amazing, to praise their bowl of oatmeal with an orange slice garnish on top or to swoon over their veggie stir fry that they created from start to finish. It is magical to see their shoulders held proudly and the twinkle in their eye when they say, “You’ve got to try this!” to their built-in fan club, their family.

The potential for a positive result is great; success begets success and a confident home chef is born. The greatest gift to them? The ability to nourish themselves and then share what they create in order to nourish others.

Erin Rosvold, info@nourishnorthwest.com or 503.234.7280; Nourishnorthwest.com.