My oldest son loves to cook, but I’ll be honest, I often shoo him out of the kitchen when I start dinner preparations. I’m busy, I’m tired, I can cook with my eyes closed, and I don’t need a mess left behind to clean up that adds to my already slammed day. I felt bad though recently when he asked me about a certain measurement. I told him, “You know, it’s the one cup that I use when I make (insert food here).” Blink, blink… He had no clue what I was referring to because he wasn’t allowed in the kitchen when I cooked.
I realized then that I was missing not only those teachable moments by not allowing him to cook with me, but also precious family time that I will never have the opportunity to get back. It was an eye opener. Since then, we’ve tried to incorporate both of our boys into our meal planning and making ventures. There are still those times when I shoo the boys out of the kitchen but now, those are few and far between instead of the norm.
Whether you’re a novice cook or a professional, here are some easy tips on incorporating your entire family into your kitchen routine.
Start at the beginning. I try to plan for our weekly meals either on Sunday or Monday. I let my oldest ask each person for a suggestion for one night during the week. We then discuss sides and how we’re going to make it. (Are we switching up ingredients or making it like usual.)
Grocery shop on a list. Once we’ve decided what we’re going to eat for the week, we make a grocery list. We determine what we need and what we already have. If the kiddos come with me to store, I’m a stickler about shopping only from the list. I let one scratch off the item once it’s in the shopping cart and I let the other carry around a calculator and add up our total. It’s a great lesson in budgeting.
Know your strengths and your child’s. There are some things that I’ll let my 9 year old do that I won’t let my 4 year old. Elijah makes a mean pizza, but I would never let him crack eggs, at least not yet. Caleb is a bit OCD like his momma, so he’s perfect at measuring things but if I am in a hurry I don’t give him activities that require precision. He’ll spend hours decorating cookies or a cake. And rolling out dough balls? Oh my lord. They have to each be the same size and shape. He gets it honestly.
Practice patience. This one kind of goes along with the last one. You know your kiddos are going to make some mistakes in the kitchen. That’s part of the fun. I cannot tell you how many new recipes I’ve invented because I used the wrong ingredient or accidentally left something out. If you’re trying something that requires a little extra patience on your part, plan it for a night when you’re not trying to rush to basketball practice or some other engagement.
Make it fun. See who can come up with the best dish incorporating things of the color green. Sing while mixing the ingredients to your favorite dessert. Show your kids that clean up can be just as fun by blowing dish bubbles as you scrub clean your bowls, pots and pans.
One of the biggest lessons that I feel I’m teaching my kids by getting them in the kitchen is that they don’t have to rely on boxes, mixes or fast food to live. Knowing their way around the kitchen encourages a lifetime of healthy eating.
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