One of the best things about homeschooling is the opportunity for our kids to gain “real-life” experiences. Teaching my kids to clean, organize, do laundry, and manage their money are all pretty easy for me to incorporate into our days. But, oh how I struggle with my kids helping in the kitchen!
For example, my girls love to bake. And I love that they love to help me in the kitchen. But more often than not, I find myself saying no to their offers to help, simply because I don’t want my 10-minute recipe turning into an hour-long process.
Oh, I do feel awful turning down their requests! (And I try to make a point to carve out time in the near future to let them help me bake another special treat).
See, when it comes to cooking and mealtimes, children can often want to be more involved. As busy parents, though, we sometimes find ourselves just wanting to get things done quickly and have little patience for our kids helping in the kitchen.
However, I have realized that cooking and getting our kids more involved in the kitchen can actually be a help and not a hindrance. It can even encourage little ones to try new foods and become more experimental on their journey with food (fellow moms of picky eaters – wouldn’t that be great?).
After all, research suggests that if a child has had involvement in their meal, they are more likely to eat it. So if you are wanting to get your kids more involved in the kitchen, learning those real-life skills and saying “yes!” to their requests to help (and still keeping your sanity), here are my top 10 tips to help you do it.
Teach them how to set the table
One of the first things you could consider would be to let your kids help set the table. Even my toddler loves to help do this (I just make sure to give him non-breakable items).
They might love to get creative by making place names or adding special placemats. Another idea would be to assign them to decorate the table with a theme.
It can often feel like a “grown-up” job to put out the plates and utensils and set the table correctly, so this could be a great way to get your kids helping in the kitchen and the process of bringing the family meal together.
Let them create a restaurant
Another great way to get kids involved in the kitchen is to enable them to set up their own restaurant. You can go as far with this as you want to but the options are endless.
You could ask them to look in recipe books and pick the meal, help prepare it and cook. You could assign them to create menus and set the table. Maybe even dress up and be waiter or waitress to mom and dad for a date night at home. They could even add prices and learn math skills while they are doing it (anything for those homeschool hours, right?).
This a great way to encourage your kids to get involved and it will feel like a game and role-play for them.
Teach them to safely prep vegetables
Vegetables are a great way to introduce your children to the kitchen and prepping them can be quite easy.
You could start with peeling vegetables and teach your kids to carefully chop them up. As they get older they can learn how to cut vegetables in different ways and feel more confident with the kitchens and knife skills.
This is also an easy way to encourage children to try more vegetables. If they have had a hand in chopping them up and prepping them, they may be more inclined to eat them when they are put on the plate.
Let them choose the recipe
Maybe you like the idea of letting them choose the meal for the evening. You could ask them to look through recipe books or search online for meals they would like to try. (We loved doing just this in our 50 states studies – we cooked meals from all over the US as we learned about each state!).
Again this not only gets them involved in the kitchen and cooking process but could encourage them to eat more variety of meals as they have chosen them based on what they sound like and perhaps even the image in the recipe book.
Choosing a recipe or suggesting something for your children to eat can be useful, but you could also take this one step further and start sourcing the ingredients with them. You might choose to go to a farmer’s market and pick the vegetables and fruit, head to a butcher shop for your meat, or even go to vegetable patches and farms and source them directly.
This is a great way to give your child a greater understanding of where their food comes from.
Create your own vegetable garden at home
If you have some space in your garden, why not try and create your own vegetable patch? This could be a great way to get kids involved in the process from start to finish and allow them to learn more about where their food comes from. Plus if they have grown the vegetables they may be more interested in eating them as a reward for their hard work.
A vegetable patch is easier to start than you might think, and there are some easy-to-grow vegetables and fruit that don’t take long to grow.
Teach them to understand food labels
Labels are another essential way to help kids be more involved in the kitchen. From learning about quantities and food measurements to understanding how healthy an ingredient is and understanding salt and fat content.
These are great skills to teach your children that not only gets them excited about cooking and food but also incorporates other subjects like math and science.
An opportunity for a lesson
On the subject of lessons, fun in the kitchen can also help children with math and other subjects.
If they struggle to read books at home, reading a recipe is still good reading practice and they won’t realize they are doing it!
Plus there are other things to consider like adding up measurements or even conversions as they get older. There is always an opportunity for a lesson.
Create a dish themselves
Maybe they want to get creative and inventive, so why not let them actually create a dish themselves? They could look at recipes online and decide what ingredients and flavors work well together and create something that is unique to them.
It might not always turn out well, but it encourages creativity as well as skills in the kitchen.
Learn a signature dish that is theirs
Finally, maybe they have a meal or dish they love, so why not teach them how to make it? Yes, you may have to plan ahead on timing for this one and leave some extra room in the schedule, but the payoff will be worth it.
Maybe they love spaghetti or enjoy pizza. They could learn how to make those things from scratch, add their own personal take on it, and then that dish becomes the signature dish that they are known for. It provides ownership and could encourage them to cook a lot more in the kitchen.
Hopefully, these tips will not only help you to get your kids more involved in the kitchen, but teach them some valuable skills they will carry with them as they grow.
I’d love to hear from you – what are your best tips to get your kids helping in the kitchen? Drop a comment below!
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