Top tips for cooking with your fussy eater

chef's hat

There is no doubt that involving your fussy eater in the kitchen is a great thing to do. We know that when children make – or are involved in making – something, they are more open to the idea of eating it. To optimise this effect, here are my top tips for cooking with your child.

● Don’t stick to cakes and biscuits
Get them involved in cooking savoury food and meals too. After all, that’s the nutritious stuff you really want them to eat, right?!
 
● Don’t assume they’re too young
Even a two year old can have a go – and will enjoy – at simple tasks like tearing up lettuce, whisking an egg, chopping mushrooms with a blunt knife … It doesn’t matter that they won’t do it as well as you would. Thank them and make them feel they’ve genuinely helped!
 
● Don’t micromanage
If you dish out instructions every few seconds or ‘overwatch’ them, they’ll feel disempowered. Children are much more likely to eat something they feel ‘ownership’ of and pride in! So show them how to do a task and then let them to do it by themselves as best they can. 
 
● Don’t cook with them if you’re in a rush
To a child who is still learning about the world, the process is just as important as the end result. So if they become absorbed in stirring a sauce or seeing if they can get the broccoli stalks to stand up on the chopping board like trees, you shouldn’t hurry them along to the next step. It’ll create positive associations with the food if you allow them to explore and play with it at their own pace and in their own way.
 
● Don’t stop them tasting the ingredients
Dipping their fingers in something, nibbling bits of food as they go…. Let them do it – even if it’s raw courgette! Just say something like “You usually eat this food cooked.”

● Don’t insist they cook with you if they’re not in the mood

That’ll just create negative associations with cooking – and the food you’re making. Let them go and play or whatever it is they want to do instead. On the flip side, if they ask to help, never turn them away!
 
● Let them choose what to cook sometimes
Let them flick through the pictures in a recipe book and choose something they like the look of. To prevent them choosing something that needs 176 ingredients and the culinary skills of Raymond Blanc (!), you could pre-choose three very doable recipes and limit the choice to those.

● Think outside the box

Have ‘extra’ fun with food sometimes. One idea is to play ‘Lucky Dip Cooking’ – a bit like that TV programme Ready Steady Cook but for kids! (You can find out exactly how to do this, plus lots more orignal ideas, in my book Keeping the Little Blighters Busy.