Cooking and baking can be fun. Fun for you – and fun for your child. Yet, they’re activities that seem to have been lost in the rush to get a dinner on the table when you’ve rushed in the door from work or collecting your children from soccer, basketball or music lessons.
Taking time out at weekends to make a pizza from dough or mixing ingredients until you turn out something vaguely resembling scones can be a wonderful way to engage a child’s five senses: seeing, touching, tasting, smelling and – hearing you laugh!
“Food needn’t be difficult,” said chef Michael Swan, who teaches professional cookery to catering students at Fáilte Ireland’s headquarters in Dublin.
“If you teach a child how to boil an egg, they’ll be able to boil potatoes and any kind of vegetable down the line.”
Another neat trick is to line up fresh and processed produce. Get your children to close their eyes and taste the difference between fresh and processed chicken, grilled and tinned tomatoes, fresh and tinned pineapple.
“Cooking is all about interacting,” said Michael, adding that baking apple tarts with his baker dad was all part of his childhood. “Messing with ingredients is important, even if the scones turn out to be a disaster. A bag of flour doesn’t cost a lot. And it’s all about making children aware of what goes into food so they’re confident enough to choose salad and fruit juice when they’re out with their friends.”
Not only will cooking and baking improve your child’s hand-eye co-ordination and measuring skills, but you’ll be able to take a night off cooking.
“A very simple meal for a child or teenager to put together is chicken stir-fry and rice, followed by fruit salad,” said Michael, adding that children will put a value on healthy eating if that is the message they receive from their parents.
“Behaviour breeds behaviour.”
Easy things to try:
Pancakes With sweet or savoury fillings e.g. ham and cheese
Bruchetta Baguette with tomato sauce, chopped tomatoes and a little grated cheese
Baked potato With grated carrot, white cabbage and a little mayonnaise
Apple tarts Rub butter through flour, add water, sugar, chopped apples
Taken from “Your Child’s Heart” magazine published by Irish heart Foundation (www.irishheart.ie) ‘The Irish Heart Foundation is the national charity fighting heart disease and stroke. We support, educate and train people to save lives, campaign for patients, promote positive health programmes, fund research and provide vital information. We need your support through donations, as a volunteer or on our training courses’