Preparing and sharing food: why it’s good for children

Preparing a meal, snack or drinks for family or friends is a fun way for your child to learn to share.

Sharing food helps your child learn about compromising, taking turns and negotiating. For example, through sharing food, your child learns that if he gives a little to others, he can get some of what he wants as well.

Learning to share is important for making and keeping friends and playing well with other children. But sharing can be a challenge, especially at first. Your child will need lots of practice and encouragement.

What you need for preparing and sharing food with children

Choose a simple meal or snack to make with your child. Your child could also prepare a jug of water or juice and some cups for extra sharing practice.

Here are some good dishes to prepare and share:

  • Fruit salad: choose soft fruits like bananas, strawberries and watermelon. These are easy for your child to cut with a safe knife. Help your child by peeling the fruit first.
  • Strawberry ice blocks: this recipe is great for hot weather. And you can vary it by using your child’s favourite fruits.
  • Carrot and oat mini muffins: this is a good choice for lunch boxes and snacks. Mixing and measuring the ingredients is fun and helps your child’s numeracy skills.
  • Easy pizza: your child might enjoy helping you put toppings on the pizza and serving it up for lunch or dinner. You can talk about who needs bigger or smaller serves.
  • Finger foods: your child can help you spread toppings on toast soldiers or arrange fresh or cooked vegies on a plate for sharing.

Kitchens can be dangerous places for children. Always supervise your child around hot surfaces and liquids, electrical appliances and sharp objects.

How to prepare and share food with children

  • Involve your child in choosing food to prepare for friends or family. When you’re choosing, think about your child’s abilities, as well as how much time you have to prepare the food.
  • Prepare the meal or snack with your child. Remind your child that you’re making the food to share. For example, ‘There are five of us. Do you think that’s enough strawberries for everyone?’
  • Ask your child to count the number of people, and help her to divide food among plates or bowls. If you’re serving at the table, remind your child of your family rules – for example, serve the oldest person or the birthday person first, and serve yourself last.
  • For finger food or plates of food like cookies, encourage your child to walk around and offer the food to people.
  • Encourage your child to think about fairness. For example, ‘Jun Jie, there’s only one piece of cake left, but Kimberly and Kumar both want it. What should we do?’

Adapting a food sharing activity for children of different ages

Keep dishes very simple for your younger child, so that he can be involved in preparing and sharing food. If your child is still learning to share, he might think the food is ‘his’ because he made it. You can gently remind him that he made it to share.

Your older child can concentrate for longer and has better hand-eye coordination, so she can probably manage more complicated recipes. She might even help you prepare an evening meal sometimes.