Promoting Nutrition by Cooking with Children: Director’s Corner

Incorporating cooking with children requires planning and preparation. It can be time consuming and add additional costs to monthly expenses. Each program will approach cooking with children differently. Even if you are not able to incorporate a full cooking curriculum into your program, we encourage you to consider ways that you can provide more opportunities for children to interact with healthy food options.

Here are a few things that you can do as you work more opportunities for cooking with children into your program.

Identify Objectives – Prior to a staff meeting, prompt teachers to think of possible learning opportunities that are available through cooking. During the staff meeting, brainstorm a list of skills and benefits of cooking. Remind teachers to think about all domains of learning. From there, encourage teachers to create a list of learning objectives that can be applied to cooking activities. When teachers understand the benefits and purpose behind incorporating cooking, they become more excited about the opportunity.

Budgeting – Cooking activities will create an expense that needs to be addressed. Again, programs have different levels of access to resources so you will have to work with teachers and program leadership to determine how much money is available in the budget for cooking activities and equipment. Consider fundraisers or working with local farmers to acquire food and materials for cooking projects.
There may be an opportunity to acquire some tools and materials during a Cooking Materials Donation event. Parents and community members could donate gently-used cooking materials or monetary donations to the cooking program. Inspire donations by sharing your Cooking Program objectives with potential donors. From time to time, there are grants available for these heathy initiatives. Keep your eyes open for opportunities.

Traveling kitchen – Create a cart that can travel from classroom to classroom that is equipped with cooking supplies. These supplies can be purchased new or found at discount or second-hand stores. Be sure that all materials are clean and in good working order before using them in the classroom.

Communicating with families – In addition to sharing the cooking program objectives, be sure to share healthy recipes and ingredient lists with families. Share pictures of children preparing and enjoying all of the healthy foods used during cooking projects. Gather recipes and invite families to join in cooking activities. There may even be an opportunity to invite parents to participate in a child-prepared meal. This special event will reinforce healthy eating for both children and their families.

Collaboration with the community – Establish relationships with local farmers, grocers, and restaurants. Even if you are unable to cook in the classroom, you may be able to incorporate field trips to food-related places in the community.

If you have other ideas related to cooking with children that have work well in your program, share them with us on Facebook here.