Kids in the Kitchen

Kids in the Kitchen

Although it is tempting to have the kitchen totally under your control and peaceful, kids love to come in and help out. Initially, you may feel it as a pain in the neck, but with patience, perseverance and practice, your kids will become as good a cook as you are and even better. Kids love to be a part of your world. They want to do what you do. Isn’t that why we buy toy kitchens and toy kitchen food for kids? How much better it is when we let them do the real thing. Although you might have to bite your tongue a lot in the beginning, this can be a wonderful bonding experience. Besides teaching the ABC’s of cooking, you will have many unrepeatable intimate moments to share stories, develop attitudes and strengthen work habits. How much they can learn about teamwork, cooperation, the spirit of service, care for details etc., nevermind reading, math and comprehension skills. Do not underestimate the rewards of having kids in the kitchen. You will be amazed in the years to come how much it paid off!!!

It’s a big change to our lives when we become mothers and have to figure out how to make the meals with a baby or toddler nearby. Don’t hesitate to be creative. A baby enjoys being nearby, but just needs positions changed regularly. You could place a car seat on the floor, change its height, switch them to a blanket, put them in an exersaucer or highchair nearby.   By maintaining eye contact from time to time, talking, singing, and reassuring, you get a lot done from start to finish in the kitchen. Once they become busy toddlers, designate cupboards full of unbreakables (pots, tupperware, potatoes, etc) and bottom drawers full of small cans, or handtowels convenient for them to play with. Either put ties, locks or other gadgets on all that you want prohibited.  Creating safety and fun go a long way in welcoming kids into your space while you are working in the kitchen. It sets a tone that is welcoming and creative.

Get your kids involved as soon as they are willing. In my house, that starts as soon as they can push a chair to the counter and climb up (around 2). What a hair raising experience it was when the twins came along!!! It takes a lot of patience and creativity to keep kids happy and helping. Don’t worry. Over time, you will both get better at it. Kids want to be busy and you must channel their energy and enthusiasm. Having ample time and simple recipes that are quick and easy will help loads. Kids love to do, more than watch. Start them by filling, stirring, pouring and mixing. Allow them to play in a sink full of sudsy water with non-breakables while you finish the cooking. Just put an old towel on the floor to catch the water and then give it a good swipe across when they’re done to give you a clean floor. No harm there.  Eventually introduce your pre-schooler to peeling. I bought wide grip vegetable peelers and was amazed how young a child could work at a carrot or potato! Don’t be afraid to get them involved! Next is  measuring, and then cutting when they are at a responsible age. If you find music keeps you calm, put on a favorite tune to keep the atmosphere positive. Sing with your kids while you work. As they get older help them to read the recipe and do more and more on their own. If you have more than one child, rotate days for cooking in the kitchen, or delegate small tasks to each, ie. One washes vegetables, another stirs the soup.

It is important to always be welcoming to kids who want to lend a hand. I know it is hard to get used to, but the sooner you do, the sooner you will reap many benefits. How many memories we cherish of baking cookies with mom and baking our first cake!  Start them with simple recipes (pudding, jello, rice krispie squares, etc.). As they learn to read, create their own recipe book written in a manner they can easily follow. Build on it as they grow in skill and knowledge. Watch their confidence soar and their desire to take on more work in the kitchen. As they reach the tweens and teens, they should have a wide array of breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert recipes they have mastered.  What an advantage they will have in saving money, using time well and eating nutritionally on a tight budget when they leave home.  Regardless of what age and stage you are at, see kitchen time as bonding time. Laugh, share, cry, learn, goof off and enjoy. Times to share the day’s events, handle mistakes cheerfully, grow in responsibility and contribute to family life, now and in their future families. Don’t settle for anything less.

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