Q&A with Renea Myers, Owner of Culinary U of the Triad
1) How can you make cooking both fun and a tool to build literacy?
One way to build literacy in the kitchen is to create a tray of different ingredients- it can be a random mix of produce, baking products, whatever you have that is identifiable by sight. Find simple, large print recipes that include those ingredients. Point out one of the ingredient words and then encourage the child to say the word, choose it from the ingredient tray and taste (if appropriate). This will help reinforce sight words, food awareness and adventurous tasting.
2) Do you have ideas for how parents can do “number talk” with kids while in the kitchen since building a foundation for math is so important?
There are many ways to do kitchen math! Depending on the age of the child you can read a recipe ingredient- like 3 eggs, 2 cups, 4 ounces, 2 pounds, etc- and have the child help you count, measure or weigh as you cook. As the child gets older, you can use measuring cups to reinforce basic fractions. I find the scale experiment really fun for kids as they grow. Encourage them to guess how much an ingredient weighs and then teach them to use a scale to see if they are right.
3) What about picky eaters – any ideas for how to help parents address this?
The biggest thing is to take away the pressure and the attention. Here are some tips:
- Model adventurous tasting. Parents with a flexible palate are more likely to have flexible kids. The goal is to be a Flexitarian.
- Help kids understand that we all have favorite foods, foods we are willing to eat but don’t prefer and those “deal breaker” foods we are unwilling to eat. The goal is to be able to count your deal-breaker foods on one hand. These should be specific foods, not categories like green vegetables! Talk about the different preferences of each family member so kids can see that we all have favorites but should try to be flexible.
- At meal times, avoid making separate food for kids except in the case of allergies. Make sure there is at least one food on the plate you know your child loves. Place small portions of “stretch” foods on the plate and encourage but don’t insist the child taste it. Don’t make a big deal if they say no- just move on with the meal and others eating that food. I have even given away the rejected food to another family member who wanted it! The next time you make that food, put a small portion on the plate again without drama. Over time, the child is likely to taste it. Don’t make a big deal when they do try it! Positive and negative attention at the dinner table can create future drama. Just plan your healthy menu, serve the food and let nature take it’s course. Try not to cave in to demands of pickiness. I promise your child will not starve.