Lesson 3: Fussy Eating and Kids in the Kitchen

We know many of you are keenly interested in the area of fussy eating. Firstly, it’s important to remember that fussy eating can be a completely normal part of a child’s development. Kid’s appetites can be affected by their growth cycles, and their taste buds are still developing and/or often corrupted by salt and sugar from very early on. But gosh, nothing is more frustrating than when our kids reject our lovingly prepared nourishing meals, right? So today, we're going to unpack a bunch of reasons why sometimes fussiness extends beyond the normal and into something that sees you needing some support - whether on the behavioral/psychological front or the physical front with deficiencies and other health challenges that need addressing. What's going to help you big time when you start working on this with your family, is consistency, firm boundaries, lots of love and playful curiosity around food. Enjoy the materials in today's topic. Lots of resources to make your way through and often a lifechanging module for Thrive parents.

Here's what we'll cover in this topic:


Brenda Janschek's Masterclass on Broadening Your Kids' Veggie Horizons


And here are the three recipes Brenda mentions in the video: 

Brenda Janschek chats to Simone Emery from Play with Food about fussy eating

We’ve invited Simone Emery from Play With Food to demystify exactly what might be going on with our kids. Simone Emery is a kid's nutritionist, food technologist and children's feeding expert with training in feeding therapy. Her focus is on fussy eating behaviours and she really helps us to understand what might be going on with our children and restore hope for the parents thinking all feels lost. It's not.




Brenda chats to Meg McIntock from CHOOSE NUTRITION about TWEENS and TEENAGERS

SOUNDCLOUD FILE (Audio only, lower bandwidth)

Download transcript here.

Let’s start with a clear focus as we move forward into today's topic – a little inspiration we've created for you!



What's come up so far towards our fussy eating 'bye bye' plan already in the course's first two topics?

  1. No plan B - Don't prepare back up or different meals (unless of course you've got children on protocols who have to eat differently. Best way to banish the plan B is to start serving 'in the middle' table meals so that you see the child gets 'something' in their tummy taking the pressure/worry off on that front and allowing you to stick to one cook, not more)

2. No stress - As our lovely Shalani McCray affirmed: When a little one kicks and stamps their feet and refuses to eat something. "Oh well. There's nothing else, so off you go then and brush teeth". With you not making a big deal, it will mean they're less likely to make a big deal over time. Every good tantrum needs an audience, so an empty theatre for the fussy eating performance artist is just about the least satisfying outcome for them. That means, if fussy eating is about control for them, they'll quickly get bored trying to exercise control here when you're not fussed, and the hostility will diffuse.

It is oooooh so tempting to say ‘no dessert until you've finished’ or punish them with a few harsh words for not trying the food, isn’t it? We've both done it ourselves in the past so please don't think this is about being born perfect and knowing exactly what to do, or 'just being someone who can't'. No. We all can.

Thing is, kids then learn that food is currency. They can either please you or peeve you off big time, based on what they do or don’t eat. And so, we have to not let it get to us (at least outwardly).

Our weakness is because we know how important food is for our kids to have enough energy to play, learn and explore and be well, and because it’s instinctive to provide them food whenever we come by it and to ensure they’ve eaten, this part of food education can so easily have us become unstuck!

Please give it time and patience as you try new ways of communicating about and around food and meal times. Rome wasn’t built in a day but here's to laying a few bricks, shall we?!

Tried and true ways to tackle fussy eating

Introduce variety early

If you have babies or toddlers, this one’s for you guys! Research suggests that varied eating during pregnancy as well as introducing a variety of food straight from weaning, means it will be more readily accepted as a way of life. If you get stuck in a rut, taking some time to meal plan your week to include excitement here and there is paramount.

Brenda recalls… I’ll never forget how shocked parents would be when we’d turn up to play group or playgrounds and my son would open his lunchbox to reveal a sourdough sandwich with mashed pumpkin, feta, olives, avocado and greens (ie what I would eat!) To this day he is an adventurous eater, exploring food from chicken hearts to oysters and mussels. Give it a go, you just never know what they might end up enjoying!

Alexx shares:

My son LOVED sardines, I didn’t know until I tried, and I knew sardines were great for brain development and low mercury so given we were a little strapped for cash when he was a bub, the $1 king oscar sardines in olive oil from the supermarket out of the tin and down the hatch were a god send. The glossiest hair and most perfect skin you ever did see!


Mmmm…. Sardines! I miss those cheeks!

I also then remember giving my son pesto aged 1 and he screwed his face up and rejected it. Being ‘trained’ to eat in the French culture thanks to my mum’s side, I wasn’t going to assume that that meant he would never like pesto, nor would I let it prevent me from giving him a try again and often. We have a rule: Always try once, regardless even if it's a tiny smear on your finger. I said super casually, "Really sweetie? Gosh, I love pesto." *Eats some and walks away*. This happened 4 more times over the course of the next 4 or so months, until one day I popped a little in some veggie mash he was having with meatballs – he raised an eyebrow. Had a bite. Scoffed the whole rest of it down.

And there, a new realisation was born... that ‘something familiar, something new’ paired together, makes for a great way to baby step into new flavours with little people. Cut to a couple of years later where he made some friends laugh who were having a simple guacamole and corn chips “You guys should really mix some pesto into the dip. It’s really tasty”. NOTE: Obviously be confident there is no nut allergy before getting all excited about pesto with a baby, and over 12 months is best. Here's a dairy free pesto too if you want to give pesto a go and can’t / don’t do dairy! If dairy is ok, but nuts aren't, here's great nut-free pesto option suitable for lunch boxes.

Something new / something familiar brings us to the next point:


Focus on foods they already enjoy

Complement your kids on eating the healthy foods they already enjoy. Very casually tell them about all the goodness that is in the food and how it’s helping them:

"All that avocado you love is really making your skin smooth and glowing"

“Gosh look at those muscles growing, they are going to help you swim/ run/bowl/jump better/ faster, it must be because you always eat up your meat / leafy greens / eggs / fish.”

If you’re not really sure yourself, of the goodness or benefits in the foods your kids eat, then make it a project to research together, you can make a poster, or an assignment together, no matter what age.

And you can also relate the food to something important to them. We’ve seen lots of younger kids start to embrace the idea of green smoothies when they know it gives them energy like “The Hulk”. And once they start broadening their repertoire you can then start supercharging their food with extra nutrition…but more on that later.

For the older kids, we know with lots of boys, hearing or reading that the successful Aussie cricket team or The Roosters NRL team for example, follow a low carb/ high fat diet, not that we want them to get too focused on any particular diet), but this can have a big influence on their awareness of the real benefits of nutritious foods.


Focus on a meal time they enjoy the most

If your little one general LOVES breakfast time and eats well then, or lunch, or dinner... Focus on that meal time that they're already super receptive to food to introduce new ones, knowing that their appetite is already strong that time of day. (A tip from Zoe Bingley Pullen, Nutritionist.)


Pick Your times

Introducing new, healthy foods when the kids are hungry, increases your chances of success. So when they come back from school, the beach, playgroup, sport and they’re “starving, you can pop a plate of food in front of them with the new, different, healthy options and say "I just put that there in case you were hungry while I get your meal ready, won’t be long.” Watch what happens!


Prepare food in different ways

Parents often forget that just because a child doesn’t like a certain food, it doesn’t mean they won’t accept it another way.

Lots of kids prefer raw vegetables to cooked vegetables or vice versa for example. Or claim they hate roasted pumpkin but then adore pumpkin soup (Brenda's kids!). Lots of kids can’t stand the texture of fruit but adore fruit smoothies. One little trick you could try is adding veggies into their smoothies too.

It’s always worth offering the food in different ways.

Here’s Alexx’s little man reinventing san choy bow mix they’d had with buckwheat noodles the night before, into little witlof boats to have for Saturday lunch. To be honest: He really didn’t like the witlof. He tried it though and that’s what counts. Doesn't mean she won't offer it again in another way.


TRY THIS WITH YOUR KIDS: Firstly, write down a list of the veggies you’ve bought for the latest shop. Think of 3 different ways to enjoy each of the veggies. Don’t make the overall choice of what’s for dinner negotiable with the kids, but DO do this: Say “We’re having carrots with our roast chook tonight, I need your help in deciding: Should we have them roasted, steamed with honey and garlic, OR a grated carrot salad? What do YOU guys think? Who’d like some special time with Mum / Dad in the kitchen then to make them? This way you're telling them what's for dinner, but you're empowering them to think about how they would best like to have that food. Giving kids a framework that is your design/ "this is how it's going to go generally" but then giving them options/asking for input within the framework gives them agency and moves us away from "I do/don't want it/like it" language.

Here’s Brenda’s daughter, 8 years at the time, sworn enemy of zucchini eating none other than…. zucchini noodles in a recipe she helped make with mum! Ate the lot and proclaimed she liked it…alot!


Flavour - Try one or all of these flavour add ons

Splashes of flavour help to introduce various healthy foods as 'interesting hints' without it being all about that ingredient.

  • Butter over steamed vegetables adds nutrients, making the fat soluble vitamins A, E, D and K bioavailable.
  • A drizzle of olive oil strengthens the immune system.
  • A little clove of raw garlic makes dips tasty and is antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal.
  • Cinnamon sprinkled on everything not only balances blood sugar but makes everything taste delish! Add a heaped teaspoon to the next cake or slice you make and remark “wow, doesn’t that just smell like Christmas?"
  • Add a few finely chopped leaves of parsley, coriander, basil to steamed or baked veggies for a tiny hint of fresh herb flavours.
  • Add a touch of yoghurt or sour cream to a veggie soup to introduce a hint of tang.
  • Add a few tiny slivers of chopped green bits from spring onion / scallion stalks to a guacamole - or pesto of course!
  • Add a veggie they don’t normally enjoy to something they do normally enjoy, ie, broccoli into a potato mash or spinach into a pumpkin soup.


Ignore the fuss

We know it’s easy to say, but stay calm. Fussy eaters are a major source of stress, but try not to give the fussy behaviour too much attention as this can often encourage them to keep behaving this way and have it escalate - remember food reactions FROM EITHER PARTY can so quickly become currency. Be strong... Inside voice 😉

And remember to catch and praise the types of behaviours you want to encourage and not just about the eating part:

“Gosh that was a lovely meal together.”

"Your manners were great tonight. Great job.”

“It was so nice to see you enjoying that carrot salad we made together. You’ll be a great cook one day, I’d say - maybe even a CHEF!.”

You know all that positive marketing and bombardment we’ve had shoved down our throats from the TV? Time to be our own positive marketers, right in our own home.


Everyone eats the same meal

Studies show that children who eat the same as their parents have healthier diets. Modelling is a powerful tool so it’s worth exploring if there are any changes you can make to your own diet to positively influence your fussy eaters. If your kids see you buying, cooking and eating healthy foods it will have a positive influence on them.

We all need a gentle reminder so here are some ideas of eating behaviours we can work on…

  • Drink more water before meals (not during as this weakens digestion)
  • Eat food from all the food groups
  • Eat all the rainbow of produce colours
  • Limit your intake of junk food and avoid having it in the house. (Having some popping corn kernels in the fridge to avoid pantry moths is a great things that always passes for a treat if needed) but, at the same time allow your kids see you eating all different types of foods so it normalises it too, and they don't feel guilty for eating it themselves. Friday night gelato at the beach anyone? Brenda and her daughter love their Saturday ritual of watching a show or two together over a packet of plain chips.
  • Eat as a family at least half the week. This cannot be underestimated in terms of helping foster a love of good food in your kids. If nights are tricky, could breakfast be a better time to sit together and eat?


Celebrate good food

The ritual of eating great food, bonding and connecting as a family at least once a day helps instil positive feelings around food. Studies show that just eating together as a family can improve your child’s nutritional health. In families who share at least 3 meals a week, children were 24% more likely to be eating healthy foods then those families who ate few or no meals together. And this doesn’t mean in front of the TV! Kids who regularly watch TV during meals have unhealthier diets. No doubt due to the exposure of all the ads for junk foods!



Research indicates new foods might need to be offered from 8 to 100 times before it will be accepted. Don’t be dissuaded, and offer at every opportunity! In one of Brenda's kids cooking classes one of her young chef's confessed “ I don’t know how you did it, but you not only got me to try broccoli but to like it as well!”

And remember to offer it in a different way, you never know what can happen.


Make it fun

For younger kids, make little faces or animals (or cars!) out of cut-up fruit and vegetables. Fun and food is a tremendously positive association. Just be sure to not make their only contact with getting active in the kitchen, all about cakes and treats. Savoury, as we’ve said here, can be fun too. The act of cooking and preparing food makes the smaller kids feel terribly grown up, so play to that and get them in layering lasagnes, rolling meatballs (however wonky they might look!) and mixing different grated veggies with apple into the salad bowl for a sweet and savoury rainbow salad. Kids love rolling and stuffing things so get a bit of that action happening too!


Kale (has more nutrition then another other green vegetable) - much more fun when eaten as chips and even more fun when your friend approves of them too! Invite your kid’s friends over for a friendly cook up, it’s a great way to show them that real food is all about fun, tasty ‘normal’ food!


Offer choice

Give them a choice between some healthy options. Always offer within the same food group to ensure they're getting a good balance of macronutrients Eg. cucumber or carrot, apple or orange, chicken or fish? You are still in control and only offering healthy options, but kids feel empowered and confident when given a choice and then become more likely to eat the food. Tricky little things aren’t they!


Kids in the kitchen

Kids who choose and prepare meals, are more likely to eat what they have created. All that exposure to food - touching, playing, licking can work miracles. Get your kids into the kitchen as early as possible! There are so many benefits to getting your kids in the kitchen that it was worthy of a spotlight on it - so we've extended this point with a bonus section down the bottom - Enjoy!

Here’s Brenda’s boy at 9yrs of age making the family schnitzel for dinner and loving it and then at 12yrs age he has co-authored his first recipe book with his mum! That would never had happened had he not been embraced in the kitchen! Now at 16yrs old he proves to be an amazing asset in the kitchen and mumma feels happy knowing he knows how to nourish himself properly when he's out on his own.



Take them to the market

Try if you can to stop taking your kids to a supermarket. If we’re going to be trying to move them from products to produce, then we need to move their shopping environment accordingly whenever possible. Perhaps try ordering those supermarket products you need using online delivery if that’s possible. Take your kids instead to the farmer’s market. Once a month at least if you especially have a fussy eater. Markets are a place of discovery. Markets smell like farms and seasons. Markets get kids - especially city kids - in touch with provenance. They can talk to farmers. Farmers often offer up tastes of things to kids. They can be in charge of choosing “one vegetable from under ground and two from above the ground” for that night’s dinner. Then when you sit at the table that night and you eat their choices, you affirm how great a choice it was and thank them “Nice one choosing the carrots Felix. They’re super crunchy aren’t they? Really yum, thanks”. We want to replace all those negative vibes with positive ones wherever possible as we move forward - and yes, even if they're not eating what they chose to begin with, affirm that it makes YOU happy that you chose it because YOU are loving it.


Explore their goals and match them with beneficial foods

A 3 year old wants to run faster like the big kids. A teen wants to lose the acne or concentrate better in an exam. A 10 year old might just wasn't to feel more energy or to make the Basketball team. So, asking about their goals and being close to them on a regular basis means you can support their goals with specific wholefoods that have key nutrients to optimise their goals. Roasted pumpkin seeds for zinc as a snack for the acne suffering teen; a good oily fish like wild smoked salmon or a cup of blueberries for the 3 year old to grow healthy, smart and strong; the 10 year old might want broth, berries, eggs or salmon to keep their joints and muscles humming, free from injury and able to build muscle, as they get more serious about their sports. Know their goals: Explore the best foods together so it's a project to optimise. Together. This one really helps with igniting food curiosity for many kids.

Set Some Guidelines (let’s not say ‘rules’)

Teach kids how not to complain about food. They don’t always have to eat if they’re not hungry or they truly don’t like something, but they need to move on without complaining or being disrespectful to you or the farmers that produced that food - it is essential that we teach from the seed/animal to the plate a lot of work has been done for that meal to arrive for them. "Don't be rude to the food, the cook or the farmer!" is the standard line Alexx uses for my son Seb and his buddies when they come over.

Allowing complaining promotes negative association around foods and it also encourages a lack of deep thinking and gratitude. Once they’ve tried it they can freely move onto the other things on their plate and you will be surprised about how effective this firm boundary can be to diffusing mealtime stress.

Start the conversation at any age that food is nourishment as well as enjoyment. Let them know that taste buds are very capable of changing and that they can even learn to like something after they’ve tried it about 10 times. Ok, now only 9 times to go!

Older, Go Slower

The older the child, the slower you need to go with introducing new foods and changes, otherwise you risk rebellion.

  • It’s never too late to start to get them involved in planning the meals
  • Encourage them to cook a couple of nights a week
  • Challenge them to find new vegetables to cook
  • Ask them if on their cooking night, you can join in the creation of their meal, this will help to create a positive bonding experience too, as we start to see less and less of them as they get into their later teens.

The positive thing about older kids? They can soak up the knowledge better. Get those documentaries happening like Food Inc, and the ones we mentioned in the previous module. Also, the wonderful Michael Pollan has released his “The Omnivore’ s Dilemma” as a Young Reader’s Edition. If kids understand the power of real food and the beautiful thing about eating well and learning to cook, it’s a home run (don’t stress about their odd pizza with mates.) So, get them this book and have them read it (it’s for 10yrs and older) and they’ll understand much more easily why you care so much about what you put on the table to nourish the family.


When the reason for fussy eating is more complicated

There are certain circumstances when kids might need professional help to improve their eating habits. As highlighted by our practitioner interviews during the course, you will see that undetected deficiencies can play a huge part, as well as gut health, neurotransmitter production (again possibly related to gut health) and more, can be the reason it just ain’t happening.

Sensory Processing Disorder is one of the leading causes of picky eaters. There are many articles and specialists to help with strategies to work towards ensuring your child is eating a nutritious diet, but often with a gentle approach, a lot of the strategies above are going to be very helpful for SPD challenged families too!

Selective Eating Disorder is when the picky eating doesn’t ease up, but rather persists and becomes embedded. These kids often only eat a very narrow range of food and research points to neurological issues where the part of their brain that recognises food as pleasure is underdeveloped.

Other reasons to consider may relate to unestablished allergies or sensitivities to certain foods or deficiencies such as Zinc, something Alexx talks about with paediatrician Dr Leila Mason in this podcast

Simone Emery runs a fantastic eCourse with 8 modules called Goodbye Picky Eating, designed for busy parents who want happy mealtimes with their kids. It includes an individual 30 min phone consult with Simone, videos, workbook and mobile responsive learning modules. There are also consult upgrades to include follow-up video consults where I eat with children to help look for more underlying root causes of food refusals. A great way to get a clinically experienced feeding professional at your family meal table!

You may find the MINDD foundation website helpful as a starting point or seeking out a naturopath, kinesiologist and / or psychologist with experience with children with sensory processing / selective eating disorder to support you guys on your journey.

Mindd Foundation accredited practitioner, paediatrician Dr Leila Masson and one of our Thrive experts, has a wonderful blog on fussy eating here too.

It’s important to note here that if this is you and you've uncovered a medical reason for your child's fussiness, it can be a confronting, relieving and emotionally charged moment. YOU haven’t failed up until this point - we are all only ever able to operate through our sphere of current knowledge. You’ve done the best you can and now it’s time for you to get some support to go onwards and upwards. That's an exciting thought indeed.

Alexx's focus on 2 very important things:


Essences and Essential Oils

We love the Fussy eaters Australian flower essences blend from Naughty Naturopath Mum. A must for emotional support during this time of education and palate expansion. She has a teenager blend too that's absolutely worth it if you have older kids.

Essential oils can be an excellent secret weapon in your emotional strength and general house hold calming vibes. Here are a few examples:

  • Lavender - a classic choice for instant calm
  • Vetiver oil for grounding over-excitations (perfect for the tantrummers and melt down little ones out there)
  • Tangerine or Lemon oils to diffuse (love a good pun) stressful / tense environments
  • Peace and Calming or the amazing Stress Away blends from Young Living

These can be diffused, or a drop or two placed in a 1/4 tsp of olive oil and rubbed over the neck, wrists or feet.

We support people with Young Living (YL) oils who fancy exploring oils in a safe, zero pressury way (we like to rescue you from those "Amway Aunty vibes" and also from the dangerous internet doctor vibes when it comes to oils out there) You can of course use our recommendations with any oils brands you're already happy with if you fancy - again, we're so not the pressuring type, YL just happens to be our researched favourite and we respect them for their commitment to oil safety.

If you're interested in getting a wholesale account with us, then use Brenda's member number is 11591051 you can just pop over to the YL Aussie website and join. We highly recommend one of the 'Premium Starter Kits' (both of us love the Dewdrop or Rainstone diffuser option of those premium kits) and choosing the 'Essential Rewards' option, meaning you order a little something or two monthly, and then you get points accruing for free oils shopping once you've built up a stash - perfect for gifts or treats to self.

SPECIAL THRIVE OFFER: Any Thrivers who order a Premium Starter Kit during Thrive's live course will receive a free Grounding Blend oil as a gift  - Grounding, just as the name suggests, is a great leveler, diffuser of negative vibes and supporter of emotional balance. Whenever we hand it to a stressed friend out and about, without fail, they are floored by its instant magical powers!


BONUS COURSE EXTENSION - Kids in the kitchen!


"When children observe - and better still - participate in the acts of cooking, table setting, practicing table manners and post–meal cleaning up they can learn about sharing responsibilities. In the apparently simple act of creating and sharing a meal, family members, especially young people, can pick up a great ideas about the ways of caring for others as well as invaluable lessons about how to look after themselves later on in life."
– Brian Babington Chief Executive Officer of Families Australia

We’ve already learnt how allowing your kids into the kitchen to cook with you can be one of the most powerful weapons to combat fussy eating, our experts are unanimous about this. Cooking with kids and sharing your kitchen with them encourages their interest in cooking and food. It’s also a fun way to promote healthy eating habits and skills for life, plus it’s a great way of spending more time with them. Multi-tasking at its best!

As busy parents ourselves, we totally get that some days even getting a meal on the table is next to impossible, and the thought of getting the kids in there to help is just too much to bear. Seek out a better time, a quieter time, perhaps on the weekend or a rainy afternoon when activities are cancelled, to welcome them into the hub of the home. Take some deep breathes and then off you go. Trust us, the benefits will far outweigh the pain. After years of inviting her children into the kitchen, Brenda is now reaping the benefits of having her children cook for the family, saving time, effort and stress. Here he is making lunch box snacks a few years ago, his own recipe for Chocolate Choc-Chip Cookies no less!


The tasks you encourage the kids to do can be adapted to suit the ages and skills of the kids so it can be enjoyable. There was once a kid in Brenda’s cooking class who at 5yrs old was the youngest kid in the class but such the most expert of all the kids using a peeler.

Some of the older kids struggled with peeling and would hand it over to Mr 5 knowing he would get the job done. The sense of pride and accomplishment on this cuties face was pure gold! And what a boost to his confidence! Here he is, what an expert!


You can even take their involvement in the process of cooking a few steps back, like taking them to the local farmers market and having them choose something they would like to cook with and try. Or even better plant some food in the back garden, even just some herbs if space is limited.

Having our kids in the kitchen is beneficial in many ways as you can read below.


Getting our kids in the kitchen has the great potential to influence food preferences for nutritious and delicious foods and to teach our kids about nutrition – what’s healthy, why, and why that’s good.

Most kids don’t know how food is grown or where it comes from or even what certain foods are. So the act of cooking with them allows them to learn what different foods look and feel like, where they come from, when they are in season and how to get it ready for cooking.

Cooking together creates the opportunity for them to learn what real food actually is, that properly prepared food represents a fuel source for our bodies, acts to boost our immune systems and help protect us from stress and disease. In this way they are also learning what to avoid, without fear, such as heavily processed products that work against optimal health.

As our picky eaters are introduced to new foods, all their senses are engaged -  feeling, smelling and touching brings them all the closer to tasting. Making and preparing a meal creates connection between the child and what’s on the plate of food they made, they take ownership of it, bringing them yet another step closer to trying it.

In one of Brenda’s cooking classes, one of the mum’s jaws dropped to see her daughter devouring a huge bowl of kale chips which she had made herself. Previously this mum struggled to get her daughter to try new foods (let alone green ones!) and was thrilled to see her daughter eating all that cancer fighting, immune building goodness.



In one of Alexx’s cooking classes, she made the format so that the kids cooked with her for 2 hours and prepared roast chook 3 ways along with 5 vegetables done 5 different ways (roasted, mashed, steamed, raw and fritters) with fresh herbs, lemons, cheesy tops and more. The parents then came back and enjoyed the feast with their kids. Parents were gobsmacked by the devouring of all the vegetables they hardly ever ate at home. One mum asked ‘why?’ to her little one who simply said ‘The butter makes it taste glorious mum. Can’t you see?’" Hilarious yet true!

Encourage them to taste as they cook and identify flavours which helps to explore all the 5 tastes – bitter, sweet, umami, sour and savoury, soon they’ll be experts and will be able to tell if a dish’s flavour needs adjusting.

The act of cooking cultivates an appreciation for real ingredients, all of their senses will be engaged with the textures, sounds and sights of cooking which will have them wanting to do it again and again.


Kids in the kitchen teaches the kids about hygiene in terms of always washing and drying hands thoroughly before cooking. It teaches them about fire, gas, sharp objects, which way to turn pot and pan handles, knife skills, safe food handling practices and other potential dangers of the kitchen they need to be aware of.


Reading recipes and flicking through recipe books encourages children to read and follow instructions, assisting them with language and comprehension (later, they will learn ‘improvisation’ and ‘multitasking’) and expanding their vocabulary when talking about textures, tastes, smells, appliances, colours, kitchenware. Learning words like whisk, grater, peeler, blender, food processor, cutlery, stove, oven and Thermomix.


The recipes help with maths concepts like weighing, measuring, estimating, fractions, proportions plus organisational and sequencing skills. Brenda’s daughter likes making healthy treats in particular and when she opted to triple her favourite ginger cookie recipe, she got to try out her multiplication skills!


Cooking with our kids provides important bonding time, which in turn, helps to build our kids confidence. It also presents opportunities to praise kids as they complete a task and learn new skills, which contributes to a boost in their self- esteem. Most important is the enriching connection provided by focused time and engagement between parent and child. While lovingly and patiently collaborating with your child, you are demonstrating to them that they have value to you and can be trusted. Think for a minute what that does for their confidence and self esteem which, in turn, develops their social interactive skills - not to mention that so many beautiful memories are created in the kitchen: licking the spoon, decorating a cake, feeling loved and valued and tasting your latest masterpiece! Brenda’s son in younger years, proudly (and smugly) showing his Dad exactly how one separates an egg (was clearly not embraced in the kitchen as a child!)



While cutting, chopping, rolling, spooning, stirring, skewering and stuffing they are honing their fine motor skills. as well as their five senses: see, hear, smell, touch, taste (thanks XTC, showing our age.) It’s a sensory, tactile experience, involving fine-motor and co-ordination skills. Just look at those little hands in the picture learning to cut with a safety knife.



Kids have an opportunity to express their creativity – eg. using cookie cutters to make different pizza or sandwich shapes, collaborating on a new healthy cake recipe and decorating it, deciding on the design and ingredients for a fruit kebab, choosing ingredients they like to include in their smoothie.


Sadly, cooking is becoming a dying art in families and it’s up to us to keep it alive and pass it on to our children. It’s part of our job description to prepare our kids with the skills for life and to learn to live responsibly. The health of our children and future generations lies in the hands of parents and caregivers, especially considering so many health issues we see with kids are dietary and nutrition related. If we do this, by the time they leave home we’ll feel good knowing that they won’t be relying on vending machines and frozen dinners but will know how to not just properly nourish themselves, but also their future families.


Assignment: Start cooking with your kids! If you are worried about time and mess, first read this article, then start small. Choose one meal and get the kids involved - sometimes make it a meal, not just cookies : ) For the younger kids designate them a drawer or shelf area with their own set of utensils and equipment and their own special apron. Give your kids age appropriate tasks, throw some music on, have a boogie, a chat and a laugh and enjoy! Share your pics on Instagram  with our hashtag #THRIVINGHAPPYYKIDS and then click the hashtag once you’ve posted it, to join up with everyone else using the hashtag on our course! Remember to post in our Facebook group too.

Here are some recipe books with some great ideas of food you can start making with your kids of all ages:

Real Treats by Alexx Stuart provides wholesome, nourishing treats that allows your kids to embrace cooking and baking whilst looking after their health, your family, and the planet. It's a book that will also help you do the work on defining what a REAL TREAT is in this mixed-message media landscape feeding us weirdo packets of fakeness and telling us 'we deserve a treat'. Yes we do, but we sure as heck don't deserve an 18 ingredient candy bar!

Alexx Stuart Real-Treats-

Real Food for Hungry Teens by Brenda Janschek, and her hungry son Orlando, offers a rich variety of nourishing, real food recipes that your older kids (and kids of all ages!) will love to make and eat.

Orlando_eBook_2nd FrontCover with Orli and I cooking

Easy Wholefood Lunchboxes by Brenda Janschek - packed with 40 delicious nut-free sweet and savoury recipes your kids will love


And there you have it. It's a lot to take in so rather than feel you need to do it all, pick one or two things and start working on those.

CAUTION: If your child doesn't respond on the first day, that is FINE - normal even! Think about it this way: if for years you've been reacting or responding a certain way, do you really think that one day's change is going to equal instant buy in? Probably not, so be patient and be consistent. You've got this and we're here to support you.

Brenda & Alexx x

© Thrive 2020

Disclaimer: This eCourse contains the educated opinions of the authors and does not substitute for medical advice from your health care professional. It is your responsibility to consult your medical provider before making any changes to your diet. The author, therefore, assumes no responsibility for the decisions you take based upon the information contained in this eCourse.

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  1. Emma Black on May 14, 2018 at 11:46 am

    I have really enjoyed trying recipes from One Handed Cooks too – I would recommend checking them out too for babies through to preschoolers (although you dont need to stop at preschool; they have family meals etc too) ! My favourite is the cookbook but lots of free recipes on the blog are good too. Thought I would mention in case it helps others.

    • admin on May 14, 2018 at 1:53 pm

      Yes, they’re great. Thanks for mentioning Emma.

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