Growing up, the kitchen really was the heart of our home. We spent hours at the counter doing homework, watching our mom cook dinner and helping her bake goodies for our neighbors. Now that we’re grown and have families of our own, we’ve realized the importance of those moments we spent in our kitchen, growing closer to our mom and to each other. We’ve tried to pass on those moments to our children using some tactics our mom used, and incorporating a few new ones of our own. Kids may not be the cleanest or the most coordinated, but when it comes down to it — they can be some of the best Sous-chefs you will ever meet.
Getting your kids involved in the kitchen may be a daunting task, but with patience, and a few tips you’ll be well on your way to creating lasting memories.
1. Meal planning. Every Thursday night, our mom would sit at the kitchen counter and plan our family’s meals for the upcoming week. She would meticulously write down every ingredient she needed in her perfect cursive handwriting and then list all the meals on a little piece of paper that would hang on the fridge until the following week. We would sit next to her, and suggest our favorite recipes. She’d listen to our suggestions and pick a few. It was a great way to get us involved, and if we chose the recipe, we were more likely to eat it. Now, we plan our own menus each week — and share it with all of our followers on Saturdays — and our kids like to help us pick out one or two recipes.
2. Be Patient. It might be best to let your kids help you cook when you have time to be patient. Growing up, this usually meant we would help cook on Sundays when there was less going on, and enough time for our mom to answer any questions we had. If you’re rushed and under pressure to get a meal on the table, it’s probably not the best night to teach your kids how to make the perfect pasta dough.
3. Live with the mess. Cooking with kids can get MESSY. It’s tempting to get distracted by the wake they leave behind mixing in flour or pouring batter, but try to focus on teaching them. Remember, you’re making memories! Your kids will learn to love helping you in the kitchen if the environment is not a nervous, high-stress, I-need-to-clean-that-up situation. That doesn’t mean they can’t help you clean up when it’s all over, though.
4. Set the table. Growing up, we always worked together to set the table for dinner. One sister would grab the cups, another the plates, one got the utensils and another would get the napkins. As dishes were ready to go on the table, we’d help carry them to the dining room from the counter. It was a great way to get us involved, and would distract us from asking when dinner would be ready.
5. Use simple tasks. These might vary depending on the ages of your children, but any child can help in the kitchen. Mixing in simple, dry ingredients is a good task for the youngest children, but as they grow, children can help measure ingredients, cut vegetables and toppings, crack eggs, and even put dishes in the oven. No matter the age, licking the bowl is always a good option.
6. Personalize it. One of our favorite things to do in the kitchen was to decorate our own plates. Whether that meant choosing the toppings for our tacos, the filling for our pancakes or the decorations for our sugar cookies, we loved the freedom of doing it ourselves. When our mom had time, she would make (or buy) small pizza crusts, and we would get to choose our pizza toppings before we threw them in the oven. It was a great way to get us involved in the decision-making of what we ate.
By incorporating these six simple ideas, you can help teach your children important lessons at an early age. Make meal preparation a time for memories that your kids can carry with them for years to come.