- Washing. "Young children love playing in the water," says Sarah Krieger, MPH, RDN, LDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. "Place a small stool or chair in front of the sink, fill a large bowl or salad spinner with water, and show your child how to swish the lettuce leaves." Remember to dress your child in clothing and shoes that can get wet, and keep a mop handy!
- Cutting. Krieger suggests seating young children at the table with a cutting board, plastic picnic knife, and a soft fruit or vegetable, such as a banana, peeled melon wedge, peach half, pear half, mango wedge, or mushrooms.
- Making funny faces. Give your preschooler an assortment of peach, pear, mandarin orange, and apple slices, along with raisins, to use for making fruit faces on dessert plates for the family.
- Layering. "Put a few clear, unbreakable plastic cups on the table and give your child cut fruit, yogurt, and granola or breakfast cereal for layering into parfaits," suggests Ximena Jimenez, MS, RDN, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It's OK if the layers turn out a bit uneven!
- Dumping and stirring. Dumping flour and other ingredients into a large bowl, stirring, and helping create delicious muffins, pancakes, or cupcakes is great fun for young kids.
Always follow food safety basics. Wash hands before touching food and whenever they get messy. Keep breakables and sharp knives out of reach. Avoid working with foods that could be a choking hazard for little ones.