By Marshall O'Brien, written for Produce for Kids

The weather is heating up and summer is right around the corner. It’s time for outdoor cooking once again. When it comes to getting kids involved with cooking, grilling offers a great opportunity to experience fruits and vegetables in refreshing new ways.

Asparagus, zucchini, and yellow squash offer a tasty change to the normal routine. How about grilled broccoli or cauliflower? Maybe sweet pineapple, cantaloupe, peaches and pears? Read on to see how to enjoy these favorites all summer long.

Preparing the Grill
Make sure your grill is ready for those succulent delicacies. Scrub down the grill top using a steel brush. Depending on your child’s age, this can be a great lesson for them in taking ownership and care. Wipe the grate with an oiled cloth (an old piece of shirt bundled and tied works great) to remove any dust residue. If you have a gas grill, make sure the burner airways are clean and clear of cobwebs and debris. It’s critical for safety sake to first have the gas disconnected if you are taking your grill apart. Using mild soap and water and a skinny brush (that should be able to get inside the burner tubes), clean burners as needed. Essential items to have on hand when you’re grilling are: a pan with oil to keep grill top clean, steel brush, tongs (make sure they actually hold the food when being pinched), metal spatula and a serving dish.

Broccoli & Cauliflower – Take whole heads of cauliflower and broccoli, wash, then slice 1/4 inch cross section. Most children enjoy helping drizzle veggies with olive oil, salt and pepper. Once grill is hot and grate is cleaned and oiled, add broccoli and cauliflower and cook until there are grill marks, and pieces are slightly tender, about 2-4 minutes per side. Remove from grill and serve.

Pineapple, cantaloupe – Cut fruit cross-section, about ½ inch, so it’s a circle piece. Slice in half, like a half moon. Remove seeds from cantaloupe. With grill on medium high heat, add fruit and cook until there are grill marks, and pieces are slightly tender, about 1-3 minutes per side. Remove from grill, and serve with vanilla ice cream.

Peaches nectarines, plums – Slice fruit in half, stone removed. Once grill is hot and ready to go, lay fruit cut side down and cook about 2-3 minutes each side, or until fruit is tender with light brown grill marks. If you want to add an extra “wow” to this, simply reduce some balsamic vinegar until it’s a syrup and drizzle on top.

Grilling presents the perfect opportunity to get any child to connect with what they are going to eat by asking them questions.

Here are a few ideas:
1.Why does the color change when it’s cooking?
2. Why does the texture change?
3. Why does the shape change?

Grilling together can be the perfect summer family activity. Now, get outside and prepare delicious foods together!