In today's society, we can get so wrapped up in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, that family time is often left out of our daily routine. Most of us consider the nightly meal as family time, but it's easy to forget that cooking together is also a great bonding experience.

There are many benefits of getting the family involved in the kitchen. Research shows that young people who are involved in cooking their meals are more willing to try new foods, and cooking can open up sensory exploration for children. Youth who get to smell, touch and see the food before even tasting it, develop a sense of ownership of the meal. Not only does cooking as a family allow them to try new meals, it also builds self-confidence in young people as they learn to prepare food.

This time together also fosters conversation. You can engage in your young person's life and talk about healthy food and even teach math and literacy skills as they learn to read recipes.

Here are some tips to succeed at cooking with your family.

• Plan ahead. Plan your meal and everyone's role in the process. Ask for help. Get everyone involved.

• Follow food safety guidelines. Make sure that everyone washes their hands, and that children know they cannot taste uncooked ingredients.

• Focus on fun. Young people can still have fun and learn without being involved in every step, especially if that step could be dangerous. Make the directions simple and age appropriate. Encourage your young person to stay involved by asking their opinion and ask them questions along the way. Take each step as a learning experience, and be patient as they learn new skills and concepts.

• Never leave a young person unattended, especially if a task could be dangerous like using kitchen utensils or hot surfaces.

4-H offers a variety of cooking programs to help young people further master their food preparation skills as well as learn about health and nutrition. For upcoming classes, check us out on Facebook: Madison County KY 4-H.

(Source: Heather Norman-Burgdolf, UK extension specialist for food and nutrition)

Educational programs of the Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expressions, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

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