It’s hard to cook dinner. The kids are running, I’m frazzled from being the only adult with 3 kids, and my morning coffee mug needs a refresher.
Over here, 3:30 is generally when it starts. This is a difficult time for me. It’s after nap time. I want to spend time with my kids, and they are anxious to spend time with me, but I can’t usually watch them dropkick the soccer ball or help them sort out their puzzle pieces or even hold a real conversation while I cook.
Part of it, I think, is that I am not a cook by nature. I just don’t love it, so when I cook, I’m full-on working. I’m thinking hard. I can’t just ease into creating a meal. When I try to do that, I usually end up forgetting to cook the potatoes or not setting a timer, and the pizza burns or the pork chops have turned to leather.
If I don’t have a plan for our meal, it’s an even harder. And since I’m just not the planning type, I usually don’t have one.
I must say that my husband is super helpful and usually willing to cook if I need him to. He actually loves to cook and is really good at it, almost always creating something memorable and mouth-watering. But he isn’t home until 4:30, and by then we usually need to have started dinner. So I try to cook most nights.
But I’m not a chef and I don’t really care what our dinner tastes like. I love to bake, and my husband has come home more than once to a counter filled with muffins, breads, and homemade soft pretzels, but no dinner. Maybe even homemade ketchup and a bag of frozen french fries heated on a cookie sheet. Maybe two entire batches of sourdough pancakes, lined on a pan ready to be stuck in the freezer, or steel cut oats soaking, for the week’s breakfasts. But no dinner. He has also more than once come home to a counter filled with cheese and crackers and a fruits and veggie platter. Luckily, we can usually snack on that stuff until my husband has some time to create a masterpiece in front of our very eyes.
I do love to get my kids helping in the kitchen, though. Once 3:30 rolls around, and I need to start cooking, I usually try to occupy them somehow. I’m not opposed to enlisting the help of the television, and I often do, but when I can include my children in kitchen prep, I try to, if even just for a few minutes before I send them on a scavenger hunt for the remotes.
Really, my kids LOVE to help in the kitchen. And it’s so good for them! We value real, homemade food and though we are not perfect eaters and we don’t always eat organically, we try to cook our own meals.
I’ve created a list of things that I’ve realized my kids can do in the kitchen. They always surprise me, you know? It’s like they’re growing every day or something, gaining new understandings every moment.
Of course, depending on your kids’ ages, they may need varying levels of supervision while doing some of these things. My 5 year old can do most of these unsupervised, but my 3 year old needs a lot of supervision while doing them. They still both LOVE to help in the kitchen, though.
I know it can be frustrating, but I dare say that, especially if you have a picky eater, their horizons will broaden each time they are allowed the freedom to help in the kitchen.
Kids who help in the kitchen have a better relationship with food. I made that up, but it’s probably true. Most of my kids get so excited when they experience new foods.
I am especially surprised when my 3-year old (my super kinesthetic boy) wants to taste things as we cook. He ALWAYS sticks his fingers where they don’t belong. Sometimes, like when we’re making scrambled eggs, or when we have pork chops in our shopping cart, this is not good. (Who wraps pork chops in such an easily punctured material as saran wrap? I want to see pork chops sealed in welded sheets of steel.)
Other times, his curiosity serves him well. Like when we’re pulling kale leaves off their stalks and he decides to just chomp down on the chewy raw powerhouse veggie like its a Snickers bar, proclaiming, “I LIKE KALE!” or when he dips his finger into a bag of flax meal, and proceeds to sing, “I love flax MEAL!” I count these moments as victories won after a years-long battle where the kid is all up in my business.
Okay. Here’s my list. Kids can:
- Grate cheese
- Peel carrots
- Sweep (Get one of these types of things. But get yours from Dollar Tree. My kids think it’s so funny to be able to sweep up messes with their “set” and I’m not sure why they call it that, but it doesn’t really mater to me as long as they are sweeping.)
- Fill our Britta water box
- Push the button to grind coffee beans
- Start the coffee pot brewing
- Clear the table (they can at least clear their own plates and silverware)
- Load the silverware into the dishwasher
- Pour detergent into the dishwasher
- Start the dishwasher
- Put the silverware away
- Stir, whisk, tap, pinch the flour, salt, baking soda, etc.
- Pour 1/3 cup of pancake batter into a hot pan, supervised of course!
- Flip pancakes
- Put the toppings on a pizza dough
- Rinse soapy dishes
- Crack eggs open (My kids don’t usually help with this because it freaks me out, but they have cracked a few eggs for me, and I should probably just let them do it more often. My kinesthetic 3-year old really loves cracking eggs and today when his siblings were sleeping and I was making pancakes, he did a great job! And I even postponed my freak-out “WASH YOUR HANDS!” moment until after he had gotten a good 30 seconds rubbing his fingers in the slime and picking out the shells.)
- Make taco seasoning
- Make their own peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
- Cut the tops off strawberries (using a butter knife)
- Open canned foods
- Stir almost anything!
Do your kids help you in the kitchen? Are they curious kitchen-dwellers? How do they help? Do you think helping has made them good eaters? (I know that some kids are just picky. My oldest is our pickiest kid. He always tells me he doesn’t like what we’re having, but I think as we keep going on with our life, he’ll realize we’re actually not kidding when we tell him there is no other option to the food on the table.)