Do you let your kids in the kitchen to help?
In the words of Dr. Suess, “If you never did you should. These things are fun and fun is good!”
Including kids in the kitchen is good for so many different things.
Life skills . . . reading (and following) instructions . . . self control . . .
And it can be fun . . . as long as you know what to expect!
Set yourself and your kids up for successful kitchen adventures with these honest expectations.
I’m not talking about what skills are normal for any given age. That’s really subjective based on you, your child and your kitchen habits.
Let’s talk about expectations that will help prepare you to keep an accurate perspective and a positive attitude about what can happen when cooking with your kids.
1. Expect to need a lot of patience, grace and humor.
Yes! Letting our little -and not so little – ones into our domain isn’t always (ever?) easy. But it’s a great opportunity to teach practical life skills. Some of those skills will be cooking related. They will also learn from our example how to instruct with gentleness (or not). Smile and be flexible.
2. Expect a mess.
Eggs will hit the floor. Smoothie will hit the ceiling. Everyone and everything will get dusted with flour. Its okay. Even big messes can be cleaned up. It’s all part of the process. (Note to self: Take a deep breath and remember that!) Laugh and involve them in the clean up.
3. Expect tasks to take more time.
Inexperienced hands don’t work as quickly as well practiced ones. For the kids, this is not work, it’s play. Play is savored, not rushed. Plan ahead (maybe let them help with prep work early in the day) so you don’t feel hindered by their involvement. The day you have just 30 minutes to get supper on the table is not the time to incorporate their help (until you reach expectation #7!). Those are the times to occupy them with an appropriate table activity instead.
4. Expect injuries.
Please teach safety skills! The free knife skills course for kids – available October 19-November 2, 2016 – is perfect for that. Even so, cuts and burns will happen. They still happen to me, and I have years of kitchen experience. Stay calm and keep a few first aid supplies in a kitchen drawer.
5. Expect errors.
Tablespoons mistaken for teaspoons. Baking soda exchanged for baking powder. Salt that looked like sugar. A timer mis-set. Every novice cook has a story. The errors can happen to mom too. I thought it was odd recently that my stir-fry sauce didn’t thicken. Thinking back, I realized that in the confusion of keeping little fingers safe and vegetables from burning, I had whisked in cream of tartar rather than cornstarch. Grace and memories for all!
6. Expect a lot of questions.
Questions are good! They show that minds are engaged. The kids are making connections and storing up information. However, I have a habit of using my kitchen time to mentally process ideas or events. When the kids join me in the kitchen, I have to consciously choose to embrace the opportunity to teach without making them feel like they’re intruding on my time and space. Clear your head and focus on the eager faces before you!
7. Expect help . . . in time.
Including your kids in the kitchen will seem like a hindrance rather than a help . . . at first. With continued involvement, though, their skills will increase. Your trust in their ability will grow, and their contribution will bless the whole family. Give them time and space to practice, and remember to praise their efforts.
8. Expect camaraderie.
Camaraderie is defined as, “mutual trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.” Sounds good to me! Time in the kitchen with your kids lets you work together on a project, and everyone gets to enjoy the final product. Sure, siblings will squabble about whose turn it is to measure, pour or mix. Keep going. Give hugs, allow extra mixing and cherish the time.
9. Expect memories.
“Mom, do you remember when I cut my finger to the bone trying to cut an apple?” (True story.) Yes – the mess, the injuries, the errors. They all become lessons. They’re also the things that memories are made of. There will also be fond memories of “that strawberry dessert I made that everyone loved so much” and “those whoopie pies we made for Mother’s Day.” Let the kids talk. Join their memories. Enjoy the camaraderie.
10. Expect surprises.
Those whoopie pies I just mentioned – they’re a true story too. The twins came up with the idea to surprise me as a gift. While I was gone for a couple hours, Dad observed the process, and let them do what he knew they could (and made sure they cleaned up the mess too). Once your kids learn a few skills and build up confidence in the kitchen, you never know what might happen! Some day you’ll enter the kitchen to find all the dishes washed or dinner ready to be served! Look forward to that time and brag on them when it happens.
Still unsure about letting your kids in the kitchen?
The Kid’s Cook Real Food eCourse opens on October 27, 2016 – and available only until November 2!
“Teach your kids to cook in 8 weeks and have fun doing it!”
Do your kids help in the kitchen? What memories have you made?