The Roundup -

Preschoolers Can Help in the Kitchen


Imagine never cooking your own food. Consider a world where you are served every meal, at your table. Then, when you are finished eating, you get up and leave to do what your day requires of you.

This is the life many of our children experience, at least to age 3 or 4. Beyond that, most children can help some way in food preparation, serving and cleanup.

“The Family Table,” an initiative of The North Dakota State University Extension Service, has resources at to help you get your kids involved in family meals.

The expectations for young children might be to wash their hands and set some parts of the table. Or children might be required to carry the cold salad or ketchup to the table and, after the meal, carry their own dirty dishes to the sink or dishwasher. This is all under the watchful eye of the head chef, of course.

As parents, our job is to teach our children how to become respectful, self-sufficient adults and responsible citizens. The kitchen is the perfect place for these and many more lessons. Plus, we all have to eat, so why not make meal preparation a special time to talk, laugh, enjoy each other’s company and learn valuable lessons, too?

Young children likely want to be near their favorite adults, especially around mealtime. Three-year-olds who know how to tear paper will be great with the salad greens. They are also in love with stirring.

Perhaps healthful appetizers are your preschooler’s specialty. Your child can arrange and serve wheat crackers, cheese, fruit, cottage cheese, fresh vegetables and dips with pride.

Serving this type of appetizer helps keep all family members from digging into high-carbohydrate and high-calorie foods while they wait for the oven timer to sound. Healthful appetizers can become the first course in a nutritious meal.

Even young children can learn to share the jobs and tools required in cooking. They quickly realize that putting together a meal takes ingredients and time, and people have to work to make that happen. Kids who grow up in the kitchen will begin to see connections between their food and its origin, including the importance of taking care of the Earth and its resources. They also will learn math skills and experience science first hand, right there near the kitchen sink.

Preschoolers who have the opportunity to practice working in the kitchen will learn to appreciate those times when someone does serve them their dinner. It can be a “first course” in learning to savor at the family table ( Join the challenge and sign up for an electronic newsletter with recipes and tips. Follow the program on Facebook for more tips, meal plans and ideas for getting conversations going during family meals.

Men: Take the Men’s Health Survey!

North Dakota State University Extension personnel are conducting a nationwide men’s survey and we need your help to reach men. We would love to have responses from every state. We want to learn what men want to know about health and how you want to learn about health on this online survey. It will take you less than 10 minutes. We in the NDSU Extension Service will use the information to develop handouts and short programs just for men. We will have random drawings for prizes. The Survey closes on March 11. Thank you for your help!

Go to: to conduct the survey.


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