Adults don't always realize how much young children love to cook and eat natural foods—but it's a wonderful thing to discover. Even kids as young as three or four are drawn to the kitchen with a tremendous sense of curiosity and respect, and they like their food to be attractive and appealing—and full of taste—just as adults do. Don't underestimate the willingness of small children to approach cooking with an open mind and the good will to make something real and delicious happen. Getting kids into the kitchen also helps them develop food preparation skills that they can use to maintain healthy eating habits for later in life.
The colorful world of garden- and orchard-based cooking and eating is fascinating to kids. If you give them time in the kitchen and share a spirit of enthusiasm, they will embrace healthy, natural foods without needing to be lured by sugar or frosting or things shaped like bunnies or decorated with gumdrops. Pure, good food carries its own appeal, and this appeal is enhanced many times over by the opportunity for an up-close, hands-on experience. I can't encourage you enough to invite your own youngster (or the young people in your life) into the kitchen for some serious fun.
One key is to set things up appropriate to your child's size, reach, and visual field so she can truly participate and not just watch. With smaller kids, it helps to do prep work at a child-size table. You can even cook at the small table with an electric skillet.
Just remember—safety concerns require that you be present at all times, and that you not let your child handle a sharp knife or be alone with anything hot. Make it a rule that although children may push the buttons on a blender or food processor (with your supervision, of course), any other work with these machines be done by adults only.
Here are three favorite recipes that children love to help prepare (and to eat).