Making snacks with your children is one way to teach them the importance of healthy eating. Kids who learn to create nutritious snacks are less likely to resort to junk food when they get hungry between meals. Plus, when kids have a hand in making their own treats, they're more excited about eating them. So you aren't just teaching your kids skills for a lifetime of healthy eating habits, you're also spending quality time doing something that's fun and rewarding for the whole family.
Before you set your kids loose in the kitchen, teach them about basic kitchen safety. Small children need to understand not to grab at hot pots or pans and to stay away from knives before they can safely help out in snack preparation. Give older kids more leeway, but use snack prep time to teach them issues such as not leaving perishable foods at room temperature for more than two hours and not using the same knife to cut raw meat and fresh vegetables.
Teach Cooking Skills
Some snacks call for cooking skills that your kids haven't mastered yet, so you'll need to show them the ropes. Because preparing snacks isn't as intensive as making a whole meal, it's a good time to show your kids how to grate cheese, slice vegetables or pare fruit. Teach them how to follow basic recipes, tailoring the amount of work they do to whatever they can handle. For example, help kids measure out the ingredients for a basic hummus recipe using canned garbanzo beans. Then take over operating the food processor. Kids can help cut veggie sticks, as well as triangles of pita bread, which you can then bake in a toaster oven to eat with the hummus.
Make Food Fun
Have fun in the kitchen when you're cooking with kids. Creating "ants on a log" with celery, peanut butter and raisins is a kid-tested favorite activity in kitchens; engage your kids even more by letting them come up with their own variations. Use crackers instead of celery to turn the snack into "ants on a raft," while dried cranberries in place of raisins changes it to "fire ants on a log." Challenge your kids to come up with other healthy options to replace any of the parts of the snack, and insist that they come up with a good name for the final creation.
Demonstrating how to make frozen treats teaches kids patience, because they must wait until the snack is fully frozen to enjoy it. Banana pops are a hit with most kids, both during the preparation stage and when they finally get to eat the snack. Slide craft sticks into banana halves. Let your kids roll them in yogurt and coat them with a healthy, fiber-rich cereal before setting them on waxed paper in the freezer for a few hours. Kids can also help pour 100 percent fruit juice into ice pop molds to create frozen fruit bars.