I am sooo excited about the nearly completed manuscript for my next book, Thinking Outside the Recipe: Cooking Activities to Nurture and Nourish the Creative Child. It is filled with so many fun activities, recipes, and ideas, some of which Zeal and I have shared here. But now I want to share the just completed introduction letter with you, because I couldn’t feel stronger about the shared meal and what cooking has the potential of giving our children. My wish for the world is that we will all be able to sit around a table and share a plate of cookies and conversation and solve our issues in a sweet, happy way. Until then, there is always the best way to come about any change, and that is to begin with our beautiful children. Enjoy!
Gathering, Growing and Learning with the Shared Meal
“Many hands make light work.” -old English proverb
The table is set, actively adorned with big and little plates, cups, utensils, and a nourishing pot of soup made from a combination of last night’s leftovers, root vegetable stores from last summer’s garden, and little helping hands. A candle is lit. Hands are clasped. Bwess dis food, chirps one small voice just in time with the bigger voices guiding her, and the family meal begins with a start. The meal consists of laughter, shared struggles, pride, and connection. The circle is strong, complete, and rooted in love and the joy of nurturing each other.
Feeding the family is a focus in the lives of parents. Unfortunately, with the rising use of canned and fast food, coupled with busy lives, more and more families with young children have strayed from cooking and eating together. But what we know is this: families who cook and eat together, and show appreciation for the ritual of mealtime, feel more connected and grounded. Children who understand where food comes from and engage in the preparation of their food are more adventurous in their food choices, and eat a wider variety of fresh, natural, and nourishing foods.
We also know that cooking is a creative outlet and great source of joy and personal expression for millions of adults all over the world. Cooking and sharing meals, celebrating food and all the exciting ways we can combine it, is a fabulous way to nurture the creative child, our families, and community connection in a way that is almost unparalleled. We gather at the table after a long day. We connect with our physical and emotional presence. We solve problems and listen to each other. We break bread and share.
Just as toys, puzzles, games, outdoor play, stories, and varied other learning tools are vital to a growing child, so we can say is food. And because food is what keeps children’s brains and bodies able to keep up with all that growing and going, perhaps it can be said that it is their most important tool.
But to nourish a growing child’s mind, bodies, and creative development is not always easy. Young children need diets that are varied, but they often eat limited types of food, and just stick to their favorites. Growing children need diets rich in a myriad of vitamins, protein, good fats, iron, and phyto-nutrients. For whatever reason, only 10% of children are actually getting those nutrients and a large percentage of children are subsisting on a diet of mainly carbohydrates.
When children enter the kitchen and actively participate in food preparation, they are learning valuable skills. The development of their creativity, problem solving abilities, skills in mathematics and science, understanding processes and change, cultural appreciation, self-esteem, and fine motor development are all boosted by spending time in the kitchen. They learn more about the people with whom they share their food with as well as any number of ways they can create and express their own uniqueness through the art of food.
In my first book, Child of Wonder, we looked at all the ways a child can express and develop their creativity, curiosity, and a love of learning. Here, in Thinking Outside the Recipe, we go a bit deeper and explore that very special room we call the kitchen, where we can gather and gain nourishment in a variety of ways.
Thank you for joining me on the journey towards rearing children who think outside the recipe, a wonderful way to nourish and nurture ourselves, our families, and children who think, wonder and love to learn! Please feel free to contact me through my website and share your stories and innovations in the kitchen and in your creative lives.