...In one study by researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University, nearly 600 children from kindergarten to sixth grade took part in a nutrition curriculum. In addition to the regular lessons about healthful eating, some of them took part in cooking workshops.
Their role in cooking appeared to make them less picky eaters. When children were involved in cooking their own foods, they were more likely to eat those foods in the cafeteria, and even ask for seconds, than children who had not had the cooking class.
“It’s the act of being involved in the cooking of it that is both engaging and a little more intense than just being told about it,” said Isobel Contento, nutrition education professor at Teachers College and a co-author of the study. “It definitely improved their eating patterns.”
Harriet Worobey, director of the Rutgers University Nutritional Sciences Preschool in New Brunswick, N.J., has seen firsthand how involving a child in food preparation helps overcome fussy eating habits.
In her classrooms, the children use picture-based recipes to make simple foods like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer sandwiches and snowman crackers. Because parents tend to focus on dessert-oriented cooking, she said, they do not realize how much their children (even middle-schoolers and teenagers) want to be in the kitchen helping prepare a family meal.
“Kids love doing things in the kitchen — you don’t have to twist their arms,” Ms. Worobey said. “If you teach your child to cook at an early age, guess what? They’re eventually going to cook dinner for you.”
Ms. Worobey points out that cooking also helps children achieve many developmental milestones. They learn to follow directions in the right order, complete an activity and see how tasks can be broken down into small parts. They also develop patience as they wait for food to cook, and get quick gratification when they taste a food.
“It’s going to stimulate all their senses,” she said. “And it also utilizes math skills and reading skills.”...
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