Knowing how to do these 5 things in the kitchen will give children healthy food habits that last.
In my previous Harminous Health column, I offered suggestions for smarter kid snacks that won’t derail mom’s healthy diet. I said it then, and I’m going to say it again this week, too: So often we use our kids as our excuse to “cheat on” our healthy lives, but really, our children should be the reason we stay committed!
On that same note, it’s equally important to let them participate in all the ins and outs of the kitchen. I grew up in a family of 7 kids and my mom rarely let us help in the kitchen. Occasionally, we set the table or made the salad and we always helped clean up, but that was it. I had very little cooking experience when I went to college, so a lot of my passion is self-taught.
Now as a Mom of four little ones, I totally understand why all my mother wanted was a quiet kitchen to herself! That said, I try to encourage my kids to help me more when I’m in the kitchen, and teach them why we use and eat the foods we do. Is it messier than just me in the kitchen? Yes. More chaotic? Absolutely. But the lessons they learn and the memories they’ll keep will (hopefully) prove priceless. And, now as a Gammy, my mom could care less about the messes her grandchildren make in my kitchen or hers—go figure!
Here are the 5 little simple skill every kid, big or small, can learn to help out in the kitchen:
Ask your kids what they want for dinner for the week and let them grocery shop with you to pick out ingredients. I even like my kids to understand how much items cost, so they are less likely to waste them. When you already know what they’re hungry for, there will be less complaining once the meal is served.
Let them get the ingredients out for you. I especially have them gather when they’re requesting a baked good. We talk about why we use honey instead of sugar and any other healthy alternatives. Then of course if it’s someone’s birthday, we use real sugar (in the raw) and we talk about how these kinds of treats are better when we don’t get them all the time.
Seriously, trust me on this. Kids make the best stirrers, especially when you’re trying to do 10 things at once. Because, if you’re in the kitchen you’re definitely attempting to clean dishes, wipe the floor, put food away, switch laundry all at the same time. (Have you guys ever put laundry in the oven? Guilty!) So anyway, take advantage of these little hands that are dying to help!
Putting food away
Create a system in your pantry and refrigerator and show the kiddos where everything goes, just like toys. For example, a fruit and veggie drawer can also teach them which grocery items are fruits and which ones are veggies. The more they help with these small chores, the more they will appreciate the work that goes into all of it.
Preparing small meals
Last, but not least, let the kiddos make some of their own snacks and meals. I avoid anything sharp or hot, obviously, but a butter knife won’t hurt them. I let my kids cut the cheese into cubes to make a cheese, cracker and fruit tray. They also have to pick the grapes off the vine, and wash them. Granted, it’s not always bliss like this, but so far in my own experience, it’s honestly beneficial for both Mom and kids.
Some of you wiser Moms out there reading this might be laughing at my optimism, thinking, Good for her, but not going to happen in my house in a million years!
In my typically glass-half-full (of red wine) perspective, I think maybe, just maybe, if I do these informal “kitchen 101” classes with my kids, I will be laying back on the sofa, sipping my wine glass and watching them do all my chores at some point soon. I mean, God did gift me four very capable daughters after all!
To fuel my fantasy (Mom can dream, OK?) I asked each of my kids what their favorite task is. My 7-year-old said she loves to help me decide what to make (that “meal plan” task I wrote about above). My 5-year-old said she loves making guacamole and she really will prepare it from beginning to end: cutting open the avocados to mixing in the seasonings. My 3-year-old replied that she loves when she gets to help Mom stir and taste!
I would love to hear how your kids like to help in the kitchen! Go ahead and tell me in the comments below.