I Can Cook: Getting very young children to cook
As presenter of CBeebies' I Can Cook, I’m no expert chef. I’m just a big kid who knows how to make cooking fun and who has the amazing opportunity to present a TV show that proves you can get any child eating healthily. Cooking with kids doesn’t have to always be gingerbread men and fairy cakes does it? In fact, cooking a healthy meal - I have discovered - has so many more exciting elements to it.
Encouraging children to get involved and allowing them to do the discovery work for themselves gives them an amazing sense of achievement at a young age. Making the programme, I saw this all the time, especially when we were in the I Can Cook garden on our ‘vegetable hunt’. Once a kid has got a muddy carrot in their hands they’ll be flying back to the kitchen to cook our Carrot and courgette muffins recipe. And of course, growing veg and herbs doesn’t always require a garden – having pots on the windowsill is enough.
All cooking can be great fun. There’s so much to discover and try out; it’s all about looking at it from a four-year-old’s perspective. There are many games you can play to introduce the young chefs to a wide range of fresh ingredients. Every fruit and veg is a potential funny ‘face’ to mimic. We love doing the ‘raisin face’ and ‘potato face’ - though the ‘cauliflower face’ proves a bit trickier to do!
A spring onion may not look exciting, but it can spark off a ‘springing’ bounce around the kitchen and then be turned over to get its ‘hair' cut: the roots are trimmed, and the stalks are cut with scissors.
When we encourage our young cooks to turn vegetables and fruit into things, be prepared for their imaginations to run wild. Once we had to actually stop filming because one child went into great detail about how the runner beans resembled a mysterious creature called a “fragglewop” that lived in a “wogglemeer” and drove an eight-legged purple car! Children are brilliantly amusing, and cooking is such a great channel for their imaginations.
Our challenge is to get children actively involved in the kitchen and to enjoy knowing more about where our ingredients actually come from - not just from a plastic supermarket bag.
What I have learnt cooking with 240 different children is that a child is far more likely to eat something if they've made it. This is the magic of cooking. It’s such a brilliant life skill too and the more they do it the more they’ll discover. On I Can Cook, we have produced more than 50 recipes specifically designed for young children to cook.
Personally, turning a piece of broccoli into a tree was enough to get me eating my five-a-day when I was little. How about you? How do you get your children interested in healthy food?
Katy Ashworth is presenter of CBeebies' I Can Cook. Katy also asks: if flour + sugar + children = mess, why let them bake? for the BBC News magazine.
Get Baking for Children in Need! The BBC’s Get Baking campaign aims to inspire and encourage all those who are new to baking to roll their sleeves up and discover their flour power – with the added incentive of raising money for Children in Need. Read a blog post by a member of the BBC Parent Panel on the BBC Parenting blog about baking with kids.