Ep. 170: Kids in the kitchen!

Fed & Fit
Fed & Fit

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    On today's episode, I'm talking with Heather of Fit Mama Real Food about how to get kids involved in the kitchen!

    Fed and Fit podcast graphic, episode 170 Kids in the kitchen with Cassy Joy

    We're back with our 170th episode of the Fed+Fit Podcast! Remember to check back every Monday for a new episode and be sure to subscribe on iTunes!

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    Episode 170 Transcription

    Cassy Joy: Welcome back to another episode of the Fed and Fit podcast. I am your host, Cassy Joy Garcia. And today we’re back; I’m interviewing the lovely Heather England.

    Heather is the blogger behind FitMamaRealFood.com. She is a wife; mom to four little kids, a group fitness instructor, and is passionate about real food. Today I’ve invited her onto the show to talk about how to bring kids into the kitchen. Welcome to the show, Heather!

    Heather England: Thank you so much for having me, Cassy! It’s just so exciting to be here with you.

    Cassy Joy: Yeah! Thanks so much for coming on.

    Heather England: Yeah.

    Cassy Joy: Heather interviewed me on her podcast; and she was like, how about we chat some more and share about this topic I'm really passionate about. So tell us a little bit more about yourself. How you got into this scene. I know people are always very curious about how do you become a food blogger, and a podcaster and all this sort. And then what specifically has inspired you; you have four littles. So I’m sure that has everything to do with it. But has really inspired this topic of bringing kids into the kitchen to be a passion project of yours?

    Heather England: Yeah. Well, yes I’m a mom to four. I’ll start with a little bit about me. I’ve been married to my husband; gosh, we just had our 10-year anniversary. We have four kids, ages 6, 4, 2, and 4 months old. And they are so much fun. And so high energy! {laughs}

    And I really got into blogging shortly after my husband and I got married. So it’s almost been 10 years that I started my blog. And initially it started as just a place for me to share, as I was learning kind of how to be healthy. My husband and I often joke about 10 years ago, we would go to Costco, and we would buy this garlic chicken frozen meal. And that’s the only thing we can remember eating from 10 years ago; although we ate more. It’s amazing to see the journey of how far we’ve come.

    So my blog started as just a place for me to share my path to becoming a healthier version of myself in both nutrition and movement. And then it’s kind of blossomed into sharing about motherhood, and more of my journey as a group fitness instructor. And cooking with my kids. I love bringing them into the kitchen with me. One, because I think it’s so important to show them where our food comes from. And also so that they can start to be comfortable in the kitchen. And it’s just one of my favorite places to bond with them. They get excited. So I’ve been sharing about that more recently on my blog, as well. And I have more things coming in the near future for that, as well.

    Cassy Joy: Well that’s exciting! What a tease.

    Heather England: {laughs}

    Cassy Joy: I would love it if you could chat a little bit about; let’s say there’s a mama, or a papa, listening out there who is thinking yes. I like this idea. But how do you actually make it happen? Because when you think about dinner time. Maybe it’s a scramble! Maybe you're getting home from work; and you're thinking; are you kidding me? I just need to get dinner on the table before there are any melt downs.

    What are some first steps for involving your kids in the kitchen right from the get go. Maybe we haven’t really had a whole lot of time to jump in and strategize on our own. So what would you say are some good first timer tips?

    Heather England: Yeah. Well I would say don’t start with dinner.

    Cassy Joy: {laughing}

    Heather England: Because, the hour before dinner. I always find it the hardest with my kids. Because they’re getting hungry. It’s the end of the day. And that’s the last time that I want to involve them; if it’s a new thing.

    Now, my kids can actually be productive and help me in the kitchen. Which is great. But in the beginning, have it be just a fun activity that you do together. Not at a meal time.

    So maybe it’s the weekend. Maybe you work full time, and you're rushing out in the morning. You're rushing back home in the evening. And during the week it doesn’t seem like something that you could do. Find a time on the weekend; maybe once a weekend. And have that be a 10 a.m., we’re going to do some work in the kitchen. And it can be as easy as, let’s measure some ingredients out. And this totally depends on the ages of your kids. And we can get into different things for different ages.

    But pick something that is super simple. Just so that they’re comfortable in the kitchen. And talk to them about what you're doing and what they’re doing. I think conversation and showing so that they can mimic; it’s one of the best places to start with that. And that you can do even when they’re super little.

    My 4-month-old; I’ll have her on the Boppy lounger in the kitchen. And she’s obviously not helping me; but I love talking to them so that they’re hearing the words and just becoming more comfortable in the kitchen from the get go. So even if you don’t have kids yet, that’ something you can maybe think about in the future. Starting with them in the kitchen like that.

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    Cassy Joy: I love that. Graysen is downstairs right now. So we have been crashing on this book, right? Heather and I chatted about it a little bit last time when I was on her show. And we’ve been spending; my goodness, long days in the kitchen. Thank goodness it’s summer, because we have so much sunlight to take photographs with. But we’ve been spending between four and five days a week, between 6 and 8 hours in the kitchen cooking. Whether we’re testing recipes, or finalizing them and photographing them.

    And Graysen, my daughter, who is now 6 months old. When we started this, she was about 3 months, now she’s a little over 6 months. And she just; before she was big enough to sit up on her own. She just wanted; we brought in a baby sitter to kind of just hold Graysen while we work. And she just wanted to be held so she could watch us in the kitchen. She just loves it.

    Heather England: It’s so fun.

    Cassy Joy: It’s so fun! And we got to a stopping point in our book work. And we were like; ok, let’s stop, and go write. We needed to phase that out. And poor Gray, for about 3 days, had a hard time adjusting, because she was so used to; when she was awake and not napping, she would sit or be held in the kitchen and just watch us, and it was so entertaining! And she was so upset when that was out. And it’s just interesting because she’s down there right now, sitting in her lobster chair on her elevated island, just watching. Wide-eyed, so fascinating, kicking that little duck. It’s so cute.

    Heather England: That is so cute. It’s so fun for little kids. Just watching your arms move around so much. You're like a little mobile.

    Cassy Joy: {laughs} Yes!

    Heather England: Just constantly moving.

    Cassy Joy: Constantly moving. She loves it. It’s very entertaining for her. Well, that’s so neat. I would love it if you could kind of break up some tips, though, for folks. Based on age groups. Obviously, 4-month-old, that’s such a great tip. Put her in the Boppy lounger. When they start to sit up, I’m sure you could put them in a high chair or like we have a lobster chair on our kitchen island. Which is just one of those chairs that grips; for someone who doesn’t know, it just attaches to the counter top, so she can just play right there on the counter top. But what are some of your other tips for how to involve kids in the kitchen from those different milestones of ages?

    Heather England: Yeah. So let’s start from about 1 on, or so. I typically start to include my kids more interactively; them helping, once they can sit on the counter more safely. And maybe not everybody feels comfortable with their kids sitting on the counter, but I do it within arm’s reach.

    So I’ll have them start with pushing buttons. If we’re making snack balls in the food processor, or a smoothie in the blender. Kids love to push buttons. That’s a super simple thing for them to do. Just learning to follow the directions of, push this button, then push that button. So that they’re following your instruction. Which is super important in the kitchen for safety reasons. So getting them used to listening, and then doing what’s asked of them.

    Another thing is mixing; which is super messy if they’re little. Or if they’re not, as well. {laughs} Sometimes I’m messy in the kitchen. Mixing and starting to roughly measure. I know that getting that accurate measurement, if you're scooping some kind of oats, or nuts, or dried fruit or something can be a little tricky. But just getting them used to that movement of scooping something and then pouring it into a bowl.

    Also, carrying supplies to and from. So maybe you ask them to get a measuring cup. Or put something in the garbage. Those are all simple kitchen tasks that little kids can start with. And once they start doing that, they can hopefully feel more empowered in what they’re doing.

    Some other simple things are using a salad spinner. So rinsing your salad, putting it in there, and letting them push the button to spin that. And one of my favorites is having my kids rip the kale off of kale stems. We make kale many times a week, and it’s so simple for them to do, to break into little pieces.

    Side note about kale; my son has some socks that have hamburgers on them. And you know, hamburgers have a little piece of lettuce on them. And we were at a family gathering, and he was telling one of my uncles that it wasn’t lettuce on it, it was kale on the hamburgers. Just because we’re so used to kale in the house. It will probably be the same in your house, with all the kale.

    Cassy Joy: Love it.

    Heather England: Yeah. So those are somethings for littler kids, ages 1 to maybe 2 or 3. And when they start to feel more comfortable with those kinds of things, they can start spreading with a butter knife. Spreading soft nut butter, or butter onto pieces of bread or crackers. Cutting up soft fruit. I find cutting pear with a butter knife if it’s ripe enough. That’s something easy that they could start doing. Or strawberries; cantaloupe. There’s lots of different soft fruits that’s a great option for little kids to start with a butter knife.

    And when they feel like they’ve got that dexterity in their hands, and they can maybe hold a cucumber and work a peeler, having them peel vegetables is awesome. I’ve seen these super cute crinkle cutters. I’m not sure how hard they are to use, but I hear it’s really fun for kids to use. So that might be an option for a different way to cut up vegetables.

    And then as they become, again, more confident in the kitchen. Another thing I love for my kids to help with is cracking eggs. And it actually starts; my 2-year-old we’re starting to work on that. And I’ll share the way that I like to do that with my kids, if you want to hear?

    Cassy Joy: Yeah!

    Heather England: Yeah. So first they’ve watched me do it many times. I kind of talk them through how I do it. And then, I have them put their hand on top of my hand that’s holding the egg, so they can start to feel the pressure that I’m hitting on the corner of the bowl. And the next step would be them holding the egg, and me guiding them with the pressure, and showing them how I take my thumbs and kind of peel it apart once we’ve got that little crack. And we do that into one bowl, and then we pour that egg into another bowl. And then eventually we have them try it. So they’re tapping it, and finding that little crack, opening it with their nails, kind of pulling it apart. Pouring into a bowl, in case there are shells, so we don’t get it into the entire bowl with all the eggs.

    It’s been really fun to see them learn over the years. And build their confidence. Just cracking an egg. My 4-year-old, the other day, we were making breakfast. And she cracks 10 eggs for me. And probably got a couple of shells that she had to dig out. But again, it’s really helpful. And that was just from a couple of years of slowly getting her used to it. And then they can be awesome helpers.

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    Cassy Joy: That is so sweet. Oh my gosh, that’s making me so excited.

    Heather England: Yeah! You're almost there.

    Cassy Joy: We’re almost there! She’s very interested in food right now, so we’re really just on the playing with softer edibles. But oh my gosh, that’s so fun. I just cannot wait to do that.

    Any lessons learned in having kids in the kitchen? Maybe, in hindsight I probably wouldn’t have done XYZ. Not starting with dinner is a really good one. Do you have any more of those kinds of tips?

    Heather England: Yeah. Well, I think starting with a messy kitchen is not going to set you up for success.

    Cassy Joy: {laughs} Yeah.

    Heather England: At all. As I’m staring into my messy kitchen right now.

    Cassy Joy: Yes.

    Heather England: Definitely that. And I think being rushed. It doesn’t have to be a dinner time rush. It could just be that maybe you only have 20 minutes of time before you have to get onto doing something else. And everything is just so much slower; even if your kid has mastered a skill. They kind of just move at their own pace. And just allowing them that time so that they don’t feel rushed. Because when we start to feel rushed; they can sense it. We can sense that in other people when they’re feeling a little antsy. And I find that that makes them feel more easily frustrated because they’re not having that calmness. So being calm when you're in the kitchen as much as you can.

    If you have multiple kids, if at all possible, try to have a little one on one time with the kids. Or often times I might have my 4-month-old in the carrier, my 2-year-old in the high chair, and then my older two kids I can kind of set them up in different spaces at the counter, and then we can all kind of work on different things. So we’re not crowded in one space.

    Cassy Joy: I love that. That’s a really great tip.

    Heather England: Yeah.

    Cassy Joy: Very neat. Oh my goodness! What are some other fun tips you have for folks, who are really getting probably just as excited as I am about this?

    Heather England: Yeah! Well, I would suggest start with some snack balls. Because they are so fun for the kids. So simple as dates and peanuts or whatever kind of nut that you want. Simply, about 50-50. I have some recipes on my blog. In the food processor. You start by first softening those dates, getting them mashed up in the food processor. They can measure that out. And of course sample as you go, because they love to sample things. Get them to push the buttons. Work on the pulsing until it’s broken up. And then add the nuts. Keep on pulsing. Add a little bit of water. Some seasonings if you want. And it comes into a mixture.

    And then have some fun letting them get messy rolling the balls. My 2-year-old and I were making some the other day, and they’re not turning into balls. They’re all these different kinds of shapes. And she’s having fun with it. So definitely allowing the mess to happen when you're in the kitchen. Just trying to make it a fun experience. But definitely snack balls are super easy and fun to make with the kids. And you can make so many different variations. Especially with back to school coming soon, that’s an awesome snack that I’m excited to put in my son’s lunch box, as well.

    And some other ones; if your kids have been working on cracking eggs. Or maybe they haven’t yet, and you're just starting to teach them how to crack some eggs. We make some three-ingredient egg muffins that are simply eggs, broccoli, and cheddar cheese. And I have some different variations. And that is super fun for kids to make. Because you can use frozen broccoli, so they don’t have to worry about chopping it. They can just put it in the little muffins. Put a little cheese on. Pour some eggs in. And that’s something that they can feel really good about helping out in the kitchen with because it’s awesome. They’re helping make breakfast, or a snack. And that is super fun, as well.

    And I think kids; when they help out in the kitchen, and everybody is sitting around and enjoying the food. Enjoying the snack. They’re going to take so much pride in knowing that they helped make that. They helped contribute to that meal. And I think it’s so fun to just see their joy in their face.

    Cassy Joy: That is so sweet. It’s a neat way to think about, also at a very young age, being involved in the household in general. And the things that really make the household work. I’m thinking about growing up; I definitely gravitated towards helping in the kitchen as well. I’m not sure how young I was when I started helping my mom. But there was such an immense sense of pride when we would have family come over. And my sweet mom; even if all I did was stir the broccoli once on the stove, she would tell all the dinner guests; Cassy made the broccoli casserole. {laughs}

    Heather England: Aww! {laughs} As moms, we’re so proud of all the things that our kids do. It’s such a great way to just lift them up.

    Cassy Joy: Yeah, exactly. It was really sweet. I vividly remember that. And I would always say, “No, no. Mom did all the work.” I was old enough to know at those kinds of social interactions. But it meant a lot. And I really think that piqued a lot of my interest in food and my curiosity around food. And just knowing how I could care for people with what we were putting on our plates.

    Heather England: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

    Cassy Joy: So that’s so sweet. I just love this conversation. It’s such a neat thing. I cannot wait to get Graysen cooking with me.

    Heather England: Yeah! And she’s going to have so much fun with it. Just because you're such a good example of showing home cooking, that she’s going to be exciting. Kids; they just want to mimic what we’re doing. So if we’re cooking in the kitchen, then they’re more likely to want to be excited about it. Which, it’s going to set them up for when they’re adults, that they’re hopefully more excited to cook. And be healthier kids, healthier adults, eating real food.

    Cassy Joy: I love it. The one thing I have to work on as far as setting a good example is how to enjoy liver. {laughs}

    Heather England: {laughs} Ah!

    Cassy Joy: I started too late. I started a little late in that regard. The nutrition side of my brain says; eat the liver. It is so darn good for you. And I want to set that example. But I’m just going to have to keep working on some recipes. The closes I’ve gotten is meatballs and meatloaf.

    Heather England: I know!

    Cassy Joy: Well masked.

    Heather England: Me too. Although, years back, I was like; I need to eat more liver. And I remember seeing; gosh, I think it was Liz Wolfe, shared about these liver smoothies that she used to drink. So I was like; ok, I’m going to try it too. It was super disgusting to me. {laughs} Because again, I’m not used to it. But my; gosh, she was 2 at the time. She loved them so much! Because when they’re so little, their taste buds, they don’t know that it’s an off-putting taste.

    Cassy Joy: Yes!

    Heather England: So even if you're not enjoying that liver taste as much, maybe Graysen would enjoy it. So serving it up, and trying to get her to enjoy it. {laughs}

    Cassy Joy: Totally.

    Heather England: I’m still trying, too. We’ll have to share tips with each other.

    Cassy Joy: {laughs} Yes. I think it’s my poker face I’m going to have to work on. Is the ewww!

    Heather England: {laughs} Oh yeah. It’s hard.

    Cassy Joy: Oh goodness. Well this is so wonderful, Heather! Thank you for all of these great tips.

    Heather England: Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. I just want to encourage parents that; I know it can be stressful having kids in the kitchen sometimes, because it gets really messy. But, there is so much reward in it. And putting the work in in the beginning, it’s going to have rewards down the road. Because then they can be helpers. And even as 5 and 6 years old, start to make simple meals, noncooking meals, to really help out the family.

    Cassy Joy: Mm-hmm. Absolutely. I love that. Thank you so much. It’s such a great conversation to have. And I’m sure it encouraged some folks. I’m encouraged, definitely.

    Heather England: Good!

    Cassy Joy: And as a reminder, you can find Heather over at FitMamaRealFood.com. Thank you again so much for joining us on this show today. Everybody; if you’ve got some questions, go find Heather over there on her blog. You can leave a comment on the show notes page at www.FedandFit.com where we will have a full transcript of today’s show. Thank you so much for joining us. We’ll be back again next week.


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