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Cooking for everyone doesn’t need to be all up to you – getting them to help can be a great way to keep them busy. Here are some tips from parents on having fun in the kitchen together.

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Kitchen tips

Tip #1: Playing with food

A good trick for getting them to eat their greens is to get them to write letters with veg when they’re helping you serve the meal. Try getting them to make the letter ‘A’ with carrots or green beans.

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Tip #2: Whose place is it?

If you want to keep them busy before tea time, why not get them to make place names for the family? Fold a sheet of paper in half lengthways then get your child to write place names for everybody who’s eating with you. They could use special colours and decorations that they think each person would like.

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Tip #3: Deal hunters

Show your child how to become a smart shopper by asking them to help you find the best deals in the weekly shop. As you go around the aisles, talk to them about different deals (e.g. half price and 3 for 2) and encourage them to pick the item that's the best value for money.

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Tip #4: A family get together

If you’re having a family get together, your child will love to get involved by helping you plan how much food, juice or seats you'll need. And you could create a checklist with your children. How many people are coming? How many sandwiches do you need to make? How many cups do you need for the children? Roughly what time shall we ask them to arrive? Hopefully you’ll have a party planner in the making!

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Tip #5: Weekend treats

Kids and desserts – need we say any more? Helping you bake a tasty treat will be great fun for your child, and they’ll be counting without even realising it. You could search online for an easy recipe – an apple flapjack would be perfect - and then go shopping together for the ingredients. While they’re helping you find everything, you can ask things like 'How much flour do we need? Do we need a big or small bag of flour?' And when you've finished baking, you can help your child cut your cake into halves, quarters, fifths or sixths. Then tuck in!

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Tip #6: Keeping them entertained in the kitchen

Following a recipe together is a good way to keep them busy – and to try out new things at the same time! They can help to wash rice before it goes in the pan or measure out ingredients. If you’re stuck for what to cook, why not check out our recipes?

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Tip #7: Look at the labels

Pick out packets or tins of food. Then sound out the letters of each word and blend them together - like this …. ‘pa’ ‘s’ ‘ta’ – ‘Pasta’. For advanced readers, there’s always m-a-y-o-n-n-a-i-s-e.

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Tip #8: Find the foods

Choose a letter, then open the fridge or cupboard. Say, for example, you choose the letter ‘b’, you could ask your child to find all the foods that start with that letter… like beans, broccoli, bacon or bananas.

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Tip #9: Read a recipe

mum cooking with her two children

Try it out: Pick a tasty recipe - you could use a family favourite, or try something new. You’ll find plenty of ideas on Parent Club, and in books. Something simple like pancakes or scrambled eggs are perfect. Your little chef can read out the recipe, and then find the ingredients with you in the kitchen. Yum!

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TIp #10: Write a recipe

If you want to keep them busy on a rainy day, why not get them to write their own recipe? (Get ready for some pretty strange mixtures!). You could talk about your kid’s favourite meal, then get them to write out a recipe or some instructions for how to make it. If it’s a bit tricky – they could copy it from a recipe book or a website. The next time you make their favourite food, just follow your child’s recipe together.

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“It’s important to let kids get their hands dirty. If you let them get messy and experiment with food, they are more likely to enjoy different types of food... One of the ways that I encourage my daughter to eat healthier snacks is chopping up fresh fruit and using them to create pictures of animals or butterflies."

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