Provided by Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville

or many, the holidays are a wonderful opportunity to take the pace of our hectic lives down a notch and enjoy the company of friends and family. These times serve not only as a way to recharge, but also as a way to reconnect with the ones we love. As parents, one of the greatest things this time of year is getting to spend time creating memories with your children and instilling traditions they will carry on when they have families of their own.

      Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or something else, there’s usually food involved, which means you’re going to be in the kitchen. While you’re there, why not include your little ones in the fun? Kids love to measure out ingredients, mix them up and, of course, taste-test, so it’s the perfect time to enlist their help while imparting basic lessons about cooking. And believe it or not, many of these activities also provide educational and developmental opportunities that go well beyond food preparation.

      “You can use this time in the kitchen to work with your child on counting skills, color sorting, and understanding basic measurements, all of which help develop fine motor skills,” said Jodi Ervin, RD, a registered dietitian with Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “It’s also a great chance to talk about nutrition and healthy eating.”

      Making something like a healthy holiday trail mix together utilizes all of the above. From measuring out the ingredients, counting small items like M&Ms®, separating the green and red candies into piles, and pouring them into small containers all help to hone manual dexterity, the coordination between the small muscles in the hands and fingers with those in the eyes. These activities also make a child feel more at home in the kitchen environment, which is important later when they are off cooking on their own someday.

      “With microwaveable items and take-out food so readily available, children today are no longer learning the basic kitchen skills that one day lead to better eating habits as adults,” said Ervin. “Habits form at an early age and with childhood obesity on the rise, it’s really important to get them involved in the kitchen when they’re little and to make it fun.”

      The best time to plan these kitchen sessions, she added, is after a good nap when your child is well rested. It’s also a wonderful distraction from the television and video games. Every now and then, veering off the healthy path and making a treat, like cookies, is OK too. After all, holidays and cookies do go hand-in-hand.

      “Teaching them how to make a recipe that’s been in the family for years is a great way to build tradition,” said Ervin.

Healthy Holiday Trail Mix

• 2 cups Cheerios™ (plain or multigrain), Rice/Wheat Chex™, or Kashi® GOLEAN cereal

• ½ cup whole grain pretzel sticks or squares

• ¼ cup raisins, dried blueberries or dried cranberries

• ¼ cup sunflower or pumpkin seeds

• ¼ cup almonds, cashews or walnuts

Sprinkle in mini-M&Ms® or chocolate chips. Mix everything and portion into ½-cup servings.

Parent Magazine