At the end of a busy day, the aim is to get dinner on the table as soon as possible… all while dodging pot-clattering toddlers, fighting children, and the homework battles. So the suggestion to let kids help with meal preparation might make you want to throw the grater in protest!
There are many benefits to the kids helping. In addition to teaching them a basic and essential lifeskill (cooking), measuring and cutting skills, you’re also spending some time together which may be the opening to some great conversations. Kids who grow and prepare their own food are more likely to eat it, too.
This isn’t going to work on your busiest nights. You need to have patience and tolerance. It might also work best to start with some easier meals/meal prep such as burgers, kebabs, nachos and salads.
If I’m involving the kids in dinner prep, I try and do it in the afternoon – this buys us more time to chop vegetables and roll meatballs without everyone screaming that they’re dying of hunger.
It can be quite hard to let the control of your meal rest in the flour-covered hands of your children, but they need to learn to use knives and heat! It’s our job to teach them to do it safely – just keep the aloe vera and plasters handy for those minor going-to-happen incidents!
Encourage them to choose meals, read recipes, even shop. Of course, teach them to be involved in the dish washing afterwards too – it’s all part of the package!
Make it easy! If the kids are cracking eggs, I get them to do it one at a time, in a small bowl. They have stools to easily access the bench. They have sharp knives (blunt knives are dangerous) but they fit into kids hands well. I’m teaching them not to eat raw ingredients, to always wash their hands before, during and after cooking, and to put food away.
It can be very trying and testing teaching your children to cook! It’s another thing that is much easier and quicker to do it yourself! But think of all the breakfasts in bed, hot lunches, and cooked dinners you have ahead of you that you won’t have to prepare! Kids thrive on praise, and the smiles they’ll beam when they serve up a meal they cooked will be totally worth the messy kitchen they just walked out of!
Ashlee is a busy Mum and freelance writer, you can find more of her work at www.phraseology.co.nz