Since September 2014, cookery and nutrition has been part of the national curriculum in Primary Schools throughout the UK – it’s hard to believe it took that long. Understanding how to eat a varied and balanced diet is important for kids' development, and being fully competent in the kitchen will make life much easier when they head off to University. Not to mention the positive impact on family meal times at home – they will be far more forthcoming when you ask ‘what do you want for tea?’ and make them into a handy sous chef to help with the prep.

We fully support the teaching of cooking in schools, and are advocates of teaching kids to cook at home. Here we look at ways you can help their culinary development with tips to enhance their learning away from school, and some easy cooking recipes for kids they can try out on the family or at school...

What does food education in schools cover?

Teaching cooking in schools falls into the design and technology section of the curriculum and covers food preparation, nutritional values and an understanding of where food comes from – pre convenience store that is!

Food education in schools - key stage 1 (ages 4-6): Understanding where food comes from, and using the basic principles of a healthy and varied diet to prepare ingredients and dishes.

Food education in schools - key stage 2 (ages 6-11): How to cook different dishes using different techniques, food seasonality and how foods are grown, reared, caught and processed and finally, how to develop their own healthy dishes with an understanding of nutritional values.

With a broad selection of topics, there is plenty of opportunity to support them in their food education. We’ve come up with some ways you can help them to continue learning away from the classroom. 

 

How to teach kids about food at home and away

1. Get them involved with meal prep

Whether it is grating cheese, peeling potatoes or just laying out food on the plate in a smiley face, teaching kids to cook begins with getting their hands dirty. Let them experience different textures from an early age and ask questions as you go, such as ‘what type of animal do we get this from?’ or ‘Where does the lettuce come from?’.

Let them use some of the more basic and safe tools around the kitchen. You could consider buying them a small set of plastic utensils and maybe an apron or chef’s hat to add a little extra excitement. This will also give them a sound understanding of food hygiene – make sure they don’t pick up any bad habits by setting a good example as you work in the kitchen.

2. Let them suggest an evening menu and set the shopping list

You are probably used to hearing ‘what’s for tea?’ as you pick them up at the gate, but why not turn the tables and ask them to advise what you should be cooking. In the early stages of their food education, you may need to steer them away from picking marshmallows and cheese with some biscuits on the side, but this will help them build up their knowledge of food and what food can be paired – and can’t! Once they have chosen, call in at your local SPAR on the way home with a shopping list prepared between you on the journey.

 

3. Have a weekend trip to a farm or pick-your-own site

They’ve seen the finished product both cooked and pre-cooked now that you are getting them into the kitchen or aisles, but now it’s time to help them get a feel for the early stages of food production. Take them for a family day out to a working farm or pick-your-own field. You’ll need to approach the topic sensitively - cows and pigs are cute to children and you need to choose your words wisely when relating them to food. At a pick-your-own site, they’ll have plenty of fun choosing strawberries or potatoes fresh from the earth and help them get a better understanding of how nature plays such a big role in what we eat.

 

4. Buy them a kid-friendly cook book

There are plenty of cook books out there full of easy cooking recipes for kids, in case our second suggestion leaves them looking blank. Bring on their cookery knowledge and help them with their reading at the same time.

 

Healthy, easy cooking recipes for kids

If your child’s school is offering full practical cooking lessons, and they need some inspiration and practice developing healthy meals, or you are a teacher looking for some cooking ideas for school, here are some healthy and easy recipes they can make.

 

 

Kid-friendly Fajitas

This dish includes many of the basic techniques included in the curriculum and is a delicious combination of fruit, vegetables and meat. It is also a great example of food from other cultures, with its Mexican influence.

Take a 500g pack of chicken breasts which are pre-diced. Add them to a bowl along with the juice from 4 whole limes (they’ll love to squeeze out the juice!), 2 tsp of fajita seasoning, 4 spring onions which have been chopped with a plastic knife and a crushed garlic clove. Let them get their hands in the bowl and mix everything together.

Using their plastic knife, they can roughly chop a red pepper, peel and slice an apple and four whole tomatoes. They can then enjoy pulling the leaves from a small bunch of coriander – make sure they get a good sniff of it too! Grownups, at this stage, add the ingredients to a food processor along with juice from half a lime and pulse until it resembles a salsa consistency.

Now it’s time to fry up the chicken in a little olive oil – they will need a grownup to do this, but let them stay nearby to enjoy the sizzle. Cook for 5-8 minutes until cooked through. Here’s your chance to remind children the importance of making sure meat is fully cooked. Leave the cooked meat to cool, then ask your youngsters to add chicken and the fresh salsa to a floured tortilla and fold with some guidance, before serving with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese they’ve grated.

 

Fish Cake Fingers

Kids love fish fingers, and will have likely tried them at home fresh from the freezer. But to further their food education, let them experience making their own, healthier fish fingers from scratch.

Ask little ones to peel 800g of potatoes and cut them in half. Add to a pan of water, bringing to the boil to soften. Ask your child (or children) to mash the potatoes. To teach them how to extract a range of flavours from a single fruit, ask the child to take the zest from a lemon and add it to the mash.

Next, take a tin of 140g of mackerel fillets in brine and a 140g tin of cooked salmon. Empty them on to a plate and ask youngsters to mash the fillets and mix the two types of fish into the mash potatoes to make the fish cake filling. Coat a wooden board with flour and once cooled, ask your child to portion out eight spoonful’s of the fishy mash and work by hand into cylinders.

Crack a single egg into a bowl and ask your child (or children) to beat the egg with a fork. Pour 100g of dried bread crumbs into another bowl and you are ready to coat. Carefully roll the cylinders in the egg followed by the breadcrumbs and lay on a baking tray. Brush with olive oil and bake at 160°C for 20 minutes until crisp and golden to serve with a crunchy salad.

 

Fruit skewers

These are great for teaching kids about nutrition, and encourages them to cook with and enjoy fruit. Whether at home or teaching cooking in school, provide them with some blunt wooden skewers and ask them to slice a red apple, half a honeydew melon, and two bananas into approximately 2cm chunks. Ask youngsters to feed their favourites onto their skewers.

Add 250ml of vanilla yoghurt into a bowl, and ask the children to crumble chocolate bars into another. Then ask them to dip their skewered combinations into the yoghurt followed by the chocolate for fruit filled fun!

 

Teaching kids to cook? We’re there for you

Cooking is an important life skill that kids can learn at school and at home, with our help. They’ll come top of the class with your support at home, and can explore a full range of new flavours while following a healthy varied diet, with the award-winning fresh meats, fruit and veg at your local convenience store.