When to start cooking with your kids

When to start cooking with your kids

Parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith shares her top tips for getting your kids started in the kitchen and why Italian cuisine is her go-to

Family chef, Michela Chiappa, creates her Oh Pesto! recipe at home with her daughter. The recipe can be found on Barilla’s Kids in Cucina Hub.

Spending time in the kitchen with your children making simple yet delicious food is at the heart of Italian cooking, and delighting in quality time together cooking up a warming plate of pasta has taken centre stage in Italian homes for generations.

Cooking with your children is not only a wonderful way to spend time with them, but has lifelong benefits, too, when it comes to developing positive food associations. In fact, a recent study by Barilla, the world’s largest family-owned pasta company, revealed that 49 per cent* of parents believe that getting their children interested in cooking at an early age will help them develop healthy eating habits for life.

Knowing that there is an appetite from parents to enjoy the benefits that cooking with their children can bring, and to inspire parents and their children on their culinary journeys, Barilla has launched Kids in Cucina, an online hub which features top tips from parenting expert Sarah Ockwell-Smith.

Below, Sarah reveals when parents should start cooking with their children and how to get started.

The earlier the better

It’s never too early to involve your children in cooking! Toddlers love to get involved and special safety knives to chop up vegetables are easy to use. They can use learning towers to stand close to you and get in on the action, and mixing is always a firm favourite!

Don’t worry if you haven’t started yet

If you feel like you have left things too late, don’t stress! However old your child is, you can always encourage a love of cooking. The more you involve your children in cooking, the more you will set up a positive habit for the rest of their lives.

Keep cooking simple

You don’t need to be an established chef to get started. Begin with simple recipes that are easy to follow, such as a pesto pasta, or encourage your child to look through a recipe book or website with you. Similarly, you can encourage them to pick something to make from their favourite story book, or something that their favourite TV character likes to eat.
Don’t forget to involve your children in the entire process – from writing a shopping list together, buying (or growing) the ingredients, packing them carefully to bringing them home and storing them appropriately, it’s all about the fun and connection that the time spent together brings. It’s not just about the cooking itself, so don’t worry if your creations are less than gourmet!

Italian inspiration

If you’re struggling with ideas of what to make, Sarah Ockwell-Smith’s go-to family meals to cook with her children are usually Italian inspired – with pizza and pasta topping the list! Below are four reasons why Italian cuisine is a great option when cooking with kids.

1. Fresh ingredients – Italian food usually utilises simple, fresh ingredients that are easy to cook and very child friendly, such as simple pasta with a cheese or marinara sauce.
2. Packed with nutrition – It’s easy to sneak hidden vegetables into a pasta sauce, a great way to get all-important nutrients into children until the fussiness fades.
3. Interactive – Pasta makes for great food-based playthings; from messy play with cooked spaghetti, to threading Penne tubes into a necklace. Research shows that this tactile interaction with food also encourages acceptance and ultimately the liking of it.
4. Home grown – Many of the most popular ingredients in Italian cuisine can be grown in a small space in a garden, balcony, or even a window box – such as tomatoes and basil. Research has also shown that growing food ingredients at home, or in an allotment, encourages less picky eating in children.

For more top tips from Sarah Ockwell-Smith and recipe ideas to get your kids started on their culinary journey from family chef Michela Chiappa, please visit Barilla’s Kids in Cucina Hub.