For Tamera Mowry-Housley, and her 2-year-old son, Aden, it all started with pancakes.
"He saw me mixing the batter, and he wanted to stir," says the actress, producer, talk show host, and author. "I saw that he was curious, I got a little stool, and let him stir with me." Now, that stool has helped Aden develop a new sense of what it's like to be in the kitchen with his parents each night. And your kids can get that sense, too.
Since her son is a fiend for pancakes, Mowry-Housley likes to make them a bit more nutritionally dense with the addition of pureed carrots or sweet potatoes, yogurt, and whole grains. All the while, Aden has a lookout post from his stool to watch his mom in action.
"Not only are kids having fun, but they're learning how to cook. By the time Aden is 5, he'll know how to make pancakes," she says.
We hear a lot about cooking with our kids these days. Many experts say that letting children help in the kitchen will make them more likely to try new foods. Plus, it teaches them an important life skill. But kids don't need to be able to handle sharp knives or cook on the stove-top to learn about food prep. Even children Aden's age can be welcomed into the kitchen to spend time with their parents and learn.
Mowry-Housley suggests something as simple as helping stack ingredients for a sandwich. Younger kids are always curious, she says, so giving them a chance to jump in is a good head start to a kitchen-filled future.
Plus, getting your little ones in the kitchen early is a great way to start traditions that will last a lifetime. "My mom cooked with us, and even now when my mom comes over, like when I had my first baby, there's nothing like her food. I hope my kids will feel the same way about me one day," she says.
But what about those parents that can barely get themselves into the kitchen, let alone their small children? Mowry-Housley suggests learning together.
"You have to start somewhere!"
Here are more ways to get even your littlest one into the kitchen and on the road to becoming your top sous chef! Your kids can:
Brooke Bunce is an editorial assistant at Parents and a life-long Midwesterner stuck in the big city. You can follow her on Twitter: @brookeebunce.