Archive for the ‘Parenting tips’ Category
Cooking is one of the few skills that can cross many boundaries and really influence a child’s development. Studies show a child who can cook is more likely to make better food choices – better food choices. So a child who can cook is on the road to being food savvy.
It is not only a soufflé that rises when a child cooks for their family… When a child masters a skill there are lots of outcomes.
- gains self-esteem
- gains a sense of importance
- feels they are able to make a meaningful contribution to their family
- is proud of their achievement
- is better equipped to look after themselves
- is able to look after others
- gains confidence and competence
- feels empowered to try more complex tasks
- is able to use preparing food as an act of service
- is able to use food as a means of expressing love
- develops self-management skills
- develops self-discipline
- develops self -espect
- develops budgeting skills.
I struggle to think of another set of everyday skills that directly impacts a child’s development and health.
Consider the three different perspectives below… mine, a teen’s and that of a younger child.
5 Reasons to cook – from my perspective
- Success builds a child’s self-esteem and confidence – cooking is no exception.
- A sense of contribution, belonging, importance and pride develops as children master skills – cooking is an excellent way to foster this.
- Learning about food fosters personal responsibility – you can feel confident that your children will be better equipped to look after themselves.
- Cooking is a life skill. It’s like riding a bike – once they have ‘got it’ they are away.
- You can get the odd night off!
5 Reasons to cook – from a teenage perspective
- You don’t have to put up with food you don’t like – you call the shots!
- It feels great if you can cook for friends and family – lots of compliments are good!
- Being able to cook gives you leverage… ‘If I cook dinner, can I borrow the car? Money for the movies? New shoes?’
- Knowing you can cook is quite empowering. You can make good food choices so you can get better skin, have more energy, be at a good weight – it’s all your choice.
- It’s quite good fun cooking!
5 Reasons to cook – from a tween’s perspective
- You can eat the ingredients while you are cooking and then get to choose the best piece.
- Your mum gets in a good mood if you help (cringe – this was a sage observation from my youngest son!).
- You can make sure what is being cooked is something you like.
- If you do the cooking you don’t have to help with the clean up.
- It’s fun cooking.
The thought of learning a new life skill will simply not engage the average kid – especially when described as a life skill. However you start talking about something they want or need and you have their total attention.
I have found deal-making works well. Along the lines of ‘If I do this for you, could you do this for me’. You may be surprised to find how kids respond to this; many are masters of negotiation in other things so they will quickly work it out. I think it is quite funny when my children say one of the main reasons they wanted to be able to cook was because it gave them leverage. That’s fine if that’s what motivates them. It also has helped our family operate more like a team with everyone contributing.
Ironically, often as parents we have to buy things for our kids anyway. Take a special pair of shoes for example. Both parties win if you suggest that if they cook dinner each Tuesday they will be able to get those shoes. This is not bribery. Bribery implies that one person wins and the other loses. This is far better than that – there are winners all round. Your child learns a skill for a lifetime, they get the shoes, the family bond grows stronger and you get a night off – it’s the epitome of a win:win situation.
No matter what perspective you are coming from
the outcome is the same –
your child gets a skill for a lifetime
which is undoubtedly to
his or her advantage.
I know you are busy. I know the family, work, school juggle and how as parents we are constantly looking for what is easy, quicker, cheaper and more efficient. But I reckon it is a good idea to momentarily pause as you race round the supermarket…
Various studies say around 70% of food eaten by your kids is what you give them – more if they are younger, less if they are older. So some simple changes that you make can have a huge flow on effect.
Much of what we do is automatic, we don’t even realize the cumulative implications. By being aware of a few potential trouble spots can make you hesitate long enough to make a difference.
Scan through this list and see what resonates with you.
- As you are about to load that big pack of cookies into your trolley, look for a smaller pack. (This is contrary to budgeting advice as bulk packs are generally cheaper – but remember a bulk pack in your pantry requires discipline to slow the eating… if it’s not there they, or you, can’t eat it.)
Have your kids got the discipline not to finish a big bag of cookies once it is opened? In most cases a mega bag and a standard bag will get eaten at exactly the same rate.
- Before you automatically take three bags of crisps because they are ‘on deal’ stop and ask the questions – Do I need it? Do I want this much in my pantry?
Just because it is on deal to buy three doesn’t mean you need three bags. Resist the temptation to be a marketer’s puppet! Buy what you need.
- Think carefully before you buy mini-cookies. This might backfire if it means that your kids eat handfuls of them. You might be best to buy standard size and stick to your guns that one or two is enough. Similarly single serve packs of crisps are excellent if they only eat one pack at a time.
Mini-muffins in theory are a great idea – you satisfy a sweet craving and eat a smaller portion. By the time the children are teens though, a single of mini-muffin doesn’t even touch the sides. Before you know it they have scoffed three or four. Better to stick to standard size and the odds of them being satisfied after one are higher. Jumbo-muffins or cookies should be avoided like the plague!
- ‘Accidentally-on-purpose’ run out of foods you want your kids to cut back on.
Simple if you want your kids to eat less biscuits – buy less of them. It’s okay – really it is! So this week buy two packets instead of three.
- Think seriously before loading sugar-laden drinks into your trolley.
If it is an easier sell to your kids, tell them you are buying less sugar-laden drinks to save money. Harder to argue over than the nutrition angle and result is the same – especially if you are saving for something that they want. Water is both cheaper and better.
- You have two packets of crackers in your hand and can’t decide which brand to buy – a few seconds looking at the label can help you decide which is a better choice. Ingredients to compare are fat and sodium – the lowest of each is best.
Lots of small changes make a big change.
With all of us being so aware with just how much it costs to feed a family, giving your children an appreciation of the cost of food is essential.
Usually, but not always, it is cheaper to eat at home, and I thought it is worth sharing how I got Claire to figure that out for herself…
While Claire was making bacon and egg pie – I was in the kitchen and we were just chatting away when I commented I thought it might be interesting to see how much it cost to make. Not being at all interested in the cost of anything that I paid for, I was surprised when she agreed. Together we chatted away and divided the cost of the pastry by two, halved the egg carton cost, worked out the proportion of the pack of bacon she had used, and made a calculated guess of how much the potatoes and tomatoes cost. She mentally added it all up and divided it by how many hungry kids she thought it would feed. She came to the conclusion that it was a pretty fair price and when she is living in a flat that would be an economical meal to make for dinner. We left it at that.
A few days later she burst through the front door hardly able to contain herself… “Mum I was in a café in town and I saw a scungy piece of bacon and egg pie for sale. It cost MORE for one piece than it cost for me to make it for six people – and it looked all dry like it had been made a few days ago”.
She got it. By herself. Sow the seed and they will work it out.
Many kids are keen to get in the kitchen, but only to do baking. Whilst we don’t want our kids only cooking high fat, high sugar foods, if it captures engagement and enthusiasm, then I say ‘bake that cake and create some memories’!
The crucial next step is to harness this excitement and make a transition to cooking meals.
I ran a very unscientific survey by asking lots of friends and family what were first positive memories of cooking. Overwhelmingly they were around baking, things like the smell of cookies coming from the kitchen, licking the bowl, helping mix or getting your hands covered in flour. Without exception these people went on to be quite competent cooks. I think there is something there…
So don’t be dismissive if your kids want to bake, but maybe set some ground rules, “sure you can do some baking do you want to try to do a meal as well”, or maybe get them to work alongside you while you cook dinner, and they do dessert. Getting your children competent in the kitchen will take many experiences. It’s always my belief to start with something they love and build it from there…
Let them eat cake
It’s official, the best nutrition and education brains in the NZ have made a recommendation*, parents are advised to involve their kids in food shopping and cooking family meals.
WOW – what a trump card for parents. It is not just you nagging to get your kids to help – evidence from the experts actually backs you up! Your kids are likely to be healthier if they help. Why? Because study after study shows that a child who has practical food skills makes better food choices…
Okay, so this is good in theory, but how do you do it? It just so happens that I ran some focus groups with kids, aged 9 – 15 years, to find the sort of things parents could do to encourage cooking. What I found out was seriously enlightening, somewhat amusing and really helpful. These eight key points could verge on being precocious – but it certainly helps us if we know what they are thinking!
In their words, this is what parents should do…
1. Let me choose what I cook – ‘Simple – if I don’t like it, I’m not going to want to cook it.’
3. Have all the ingredients – ‘Don’t expect me to be able to substitute ingredients when I am just starting off on this cooking lark!’
4. Stay out of the kitchen – ‘Don’t be a helicopter hovering around. Give me some space to work things out – but stick around in case I need to ask.’
5. Resist ‘you should have’ comments’ – ‘If I want to know, I’ll ask.’
6. Be impressed – ‘If you expect me to do this again you need to be impressed, so you might have to “fake it ‘til I make it”. And don’t go telling all your friends if I burn something or do something stupid. Don’t make me look like a fool.’
7. Don’t nag – ‘If I take a bit longer than you do or I don’t clean up exactly like you do, cut me some slack – I have just cooked you a meal!’
8. Cut me a deal! – ‘If you expect me to buy into this “cook a meal once a week idea” there has to be something in it for me. This “skills for a lifetime” doesn’t really flick my switch – but money for the movies or that new dress does. You are probably going to buy me new stuff at some stage anyway, you may as well make me think I have earned it.’
Other recommendations include eating together as a family, eating from the four food groups daily, ensuring food safety and yet other guidelines looks at physical activity – because food cannot be considered in isolation if you are wanting a healthy child.
* On Aug 6th The Ministry of Health released Food and Nutrition Guidelines for Healthy Children and Young People (aged 2-18 years). Full details, including downloadable brochures, may be found on www.healthed.govt.nz
I feel very proud that they they have noticed what we are doing!! Check it out if you want to see the whole article in context or see below. That is two articles on our projects in a two days… how amazing!
want to read the full article here…
Kids who are food savvy have a huge advantage
Forget the latest computer game or toy – one of the greatest gifts you can give your child is some basic food skills. This is not a debate that you want to have with the child because it certainly won’t get any traction. In the greater scheme of things, being able to make good food choices and having some practical food skills is indeed a phenomenally awesome gift! Once established, it will be with them for their lifetime and will set them on a path of a long, healthy and happy lifestyle.
However whilst many parents know they should give their kids good food skills, the reality is many find the whole task daunting. Glenda Gourley, a food and nutrition educator, has teamed with her teenage daughter Claire, to mix purist nutrition messages with a huge dollop of common sense and reality to come up with a raft of suggestions that parents and kids can relate to.
This mother-daughter team has established a strategy that inspires parents and motivates children to become more food savvy. Claire is the voice to teens and children whilst Glenda is the voice to adults. Claire shares her journey about getting ready to leave home and wanting to know enough about food so that she can look after herself. Glenda adds her perspective from a food and nutrition educator and parent. With two distinct target audiences and lots of resources, they have one goal – food savvy kids who can take good care of themselves.
Being food savvy is not just about cooking, although cooking is central, it also about giving children a range of food skills – from reading labels, food and kitchen safety to making good food choices.
One of the more innovative and exciting parts to their strategy is an online school holiday program where children cook their family dinner, in their home using their food. As part of the fun and highly interactive program there are live-chats and fantastic competitions – ranging from random-acts-of-kindness (children prepare and share food), to movie-making and over-the-top table settings. Whilst imparting food skills was the key goal, the feedback from families has been overwhelming. By encouraging family dinners (with TV switched off!) parents are reporting improvement in self-esteem, confidence, sense of contribution and family bonding. A totally unexpected bonus!
Whilst communicating directly to the children is important, Glenda believes a lot can be done ‘behind the scenes’ and that parents are pivotal. We need to encourage parents to look on cooking the same way as they would a game of backgammon. The children are not going to play backgammon if there is no set in the house. They are more likely to play if the set is stored somewhere where they can see it. They are even more likely to play if you get the set out and arrange the pieces.
Similarly, children are less likely to cook if there are no appealing recipes, the right ingredients aren’t there and there is no encouragement or incentive. Things have to be set up for children so that the option of cooking becomes easy. It’s up to parents to set the scene. Things like leaving a kid’s cookbook on the bench for a few days or casually mentioning that it would be nice if they wanted to give it a go and that you are happy to get any ingredients can make all the difference.
Claire and Glenda have done a lot of research and found some insightful tips how to motivate children. A parent may want their child learn to cook to foster personal responsibility. A teen, however may want to cook to gain leverage… ‘If I cook dinner, can I have money for the movies?” The outcomes maybe the same, however the reasons for engagement are poles apart.
There is no doubt that most parents want to do the best for their children and that kids who are food savvy have a huge advantage. Glenda and Claire aim to empower parents and kids to take the steps to gain skills that will make a difference.
Glenda Gourley: Glenda first emerged with a nutrition degree and like most educators, started with a dogmatic intolerance to high fat, high sugar and high salt foods. Idealist and childless. Now, many years later with three strong-willed children and a career focused on nutrition education, she has morphed her philosophy to a relaxed consistency that is nutritionally robust yet sustainable, realistic and above all excessively tasty! Glenda has established many food education strategies and is an award-winning educator and author. You can follow Glenda on twitter @foodsavvykids or on her site at www.foodsavvykids.com
I’m in Greece. Today I have climbed the Acropylis been absorbed in the amazing history and extraordinary architectural skills of the Greeks, the ravaging by the Turks, the battles with Persians, the plundering by the Scots, the occupation of the Nazis – to mention but a few. The horrific battles these people have endured..
And then I sat in a cafe in what has become the country with the worst childhood overweight, obesity statistics in the world. 50 % of kids here are officially classified in either of the ‘O” groups. The first school group of kids, about 6 years old, to walk past us looked okay, until the stragglers followed through with the teachers - mmm – the bigger kids at the back – mmm about 25% I guessed. Then two other groups came past around 16 and 13 years old respectively, and then it hit me… I saw for myself what the statistics revealed – every second kid was too big.
At the same time as the last of the second group straggled past, it was 36oC and they were really puffing – and carrying the extra weight their puff was more pronounced than the front of the group, our meal was delivered. Our second day and our second meal to totally over deliver. The plates groaning with overload. My mind flew into a calorific calculation, assessment against the plate model, the traffic lights and the outdated pyramid model ( yes, I am in Greece historical models are okay here) but with every model this meal before me totally violated the rules or guidelines. From the menu the food looked great, but the portion size of each meal was excessive.
My first reaction was, “take half of this away and all will be fine”, or to lean to the table next to us and tell them to come share with us. Two weeks of this and I will shunt into the 50% ‘O’ category. My son’s eyes lit up, this was what he would call a ‘pig out’ for the second day in a row.
This nation is at battle, no – it’s not the Turks or the Romans this time, it is the waiter with the charming smile and hospitable gestures. This enemy is so friendly you do not even know he is your enemy. Portion distortion at its worst. Couple this with extreme heat and your desire to sit rather than move and it is no wonder the ‘O’ battle is raging.
As a spectator, it is hard to know who are tourists and who are locals – but no matter who they are, the adults walking past are equally plagued by the ‘O’ epidemic. Protruding bellies and and overweight waddles inflict more than one third of the adults meandering past. It seems the exception rather than the rule to see someone who looks fit and healthy.
The outcome of this battle is not instant death, and you can’t just whip out and win with an overnight surprise invasion, history shows the sword can solve lots of things especially if you are the one wielding it …
This battle is a slow one, inflicting slow pain with a slow arduous path to return to glory. This battle is only going to be won with will power, education, parent support, kids who are food savvy who know how much and how often to eat …
I say slow, but in Greek terms this battle is faster than many they have known. In a land where it can take up to 700 years to build a building, the obesity battle of the past 15 – 20 odd years is nothing. I just hope for their sake they can turn it around…
The rest of the world is watching Greece, not only their dire financial situation, but as our health statistics march quickly behind theirs – any lessons we can learn will be welcome …
Most parents want to arm their kids with as many skills as they can – and food skills are towards the top of the list if they are concerned about their well-being. Whether it is being able to rustle up a snack or meal, being able to self-regulate how much to eat or knowing the difference between a good choice and a not-so-good choice, the long-term impact of not having these skills is well documented.
So as a parent, how do you raise food savvy kids? In Glenda’s latest book, life love food kids, award-wining author and food educator Glenda Gourley gives you down to earth strategies and practical tips that really work. Together with her teenage daughter, Claire, they have written a book for parents like you. Glenda considers the serious things (nutrition, self esteem, eating too much junk food or not enough vegetables etc) and Claire brings her back to earth so she remembers how kids think and operate. Claire is the author of award-winning cookbook Who’s Cooking Tonight? Together they have something that is realistic and achievable. Supported by this website for parents and www.itsmyturntocooktonight.com for kids, the duo are making quite an impact.
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The last School Holiday Program was a crammed with fun and learning as kids got more food savvy!