Have you ever been excited to try out the newest kitchen gadget? Maybe you love your pressure cooker or food processor to save time, or you are trying out new recipes with the latest juicer or air fryer. Whatever the item, kitchen gadgets do more than just aid in food preparation – they renew our enthusiasm to cook and inspire us to eat a greater variety of home-made foods. The same principle applies with children, whether at home or in schools.
Getting kids involved in cooking is an important step in creating healthy life-long habits. According to the Lowenstein et al. (2016), “If this habit formation process occurs while individuals are incentivized to engage in a behavior, then short-term efforts that encourage children to engage in a particular activity can… result in positive behavior change even after the incentives are removed.” Introducing fun kitchen tools can be a stepping-stone to involve children in meal preparation, nutrition awareness, and healthy eating.
According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child (n.d.), the steps below promote self-motivation in children. We have included a brief description of how to apply this with the use of kitchen gadgets.
- Elicit curiosity – kitchen gadgets are the perfect way to do this. Many gadgets have been designed to be “kid” friendly and spark an interest in children to have fun, play, and enjoy cooking and preparing food.
- Prioritize social interaction during learning – cooking and food preparation are times to talk, laugh, listen, and share time with children.
- Challenge children – let children pick out the recipes, provide age or skill appropriate tasks that build upon one another, and let children help with the grocery shopping (another great way to teach budget management skills too).
- Give children agency – allow children to make choices in the kitchen, assist with the before, during, and after protocols involved with cooking and food preparation, and work towards building self-determination skills. Ways to do this include focusing on how the food they are creating will be fun, tasty, filling, nourishing, shared with friends or family. This motivates the child to engage in food preparation not just for today but for their future as well.
Here are some fun, low-cost, kitchen gadgets that can be tried with children. Of course, make sure to find something appropriate to the age, skill, and interests of your children or students. And remember, keep it fun!
- Fruit cutters – encourage children to eat more fruit or try new ones with fun shapes, sizes, and themes that they can create on their own.
- Sandwich cutters – a great way to inspire children to make their own sandwiches by making shapes or cutting off the crust if your child doesn’t like it.
- Crinkle cutter – children like fun designs and shapes, so let them cut healthy vegetables with the use of this tool.
- Kitchen timer – there are lots of exciting timers (colorful, animal shapes, etc.) that are easy to use and visually show the time passing. This helps children understand time management and fosters independence and responsibility for their cooking time in the kitchen.
- Vegetable peelers – a variety of innovative peelers have been created that are easier to use, safer, and have cute designs.
- Spiralizers – nothing is more fun that creating spiral, “fake” noodles that can be used in a variety of recipes, once again encouraging children to try new foods.
- Wooden knives – while not all children are ready for some of the more skill-based kitchen items, wooden knives with a large handle on top (rather than on the end of the blade) are an excellent creation to instill confidence and maintain safety in the kitchen.
- Conversion tables – don’t let children get frustrated over math skills they may not be ready for, keep a measurement conversion chart handy; usually a magnet is ideal.
- Kid friendly ovens – if your child isn’t ready for the kitchen yet, perhaps their own oven is the way to go by purchasing one designed for children (of course, children still need to be supervised).
- Apron and/or chef hat – don’t forget that children like to look the part, so providing them their own kitchen “uniform” or “costume” will get them excited to be in the kitchen.
There are many more ideas for children to be comfortable and excited to help in the kitchen. Think of the tasks they can do when they are with you, and provide the tools to let them perform those tasks (basting brushes that look like paint brushes, whisks to mix, vegetable/fruit brushes to clean produce, etc.). The gadget ideas are endless; and if children are eager to start to help in food preparation, they are learning important skills for life.
Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (n.d.). How to motivate children: Science-based approaches for parents, caregivers, and teachers. Retrieved December 15, 2021, from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/how-to-motivate-children-science-based-approaches-for-parents-caregivers-and-teachers/
Loewenstein, G., Price, J., & Volpp, K. (2016). Habit formation in children: Evidence from incentives for healthy eating. Journal of Health Economics, 45, 47-54.
Vanessa Spero, Regional Specialized 4-H Agent, Southeast District, UF/ IFAS;
Tara Dorn, 4-H Program Assistant, Brevard County, UF/IFAS