I talk a lot about kids making dinner. There’s a few reasons. #1 It is a great skill for adulthood. Who doesn’t want kids to learn how to shop resourcefully, have confidence in the kitchen, make healthy meals instead of relying on take out, and dazzle you with a dinner party one day? #2 It makes life easier. I know I’m not the only busy parent out there. The ability to hand off parts of dinner while I get another task done is just fabulous. #3 Building off of the first two reasons, kids get to know that they contributed to the family, helped mom or dad with an important job, and feel good about themselves. But… what should they cook?
My husband was setting up ingredients to make burgers this afternoon, and my daughter offered to help him. Side by side, he mixed and shaped the beef while she did the turkey, and I watched from afar as I folded laundry. I listened to her learning how much of this and that to add, and how pleased she was with her work when she’d finished. For a simple recipe that kids can handle, oversee the sprinkling of salt, pepper, Italian seasoning, and garlic powder. Meanwhile, my little one wanted to help with fries. Together we washed and sliced; she with a butter knife. These needed only a little seasoning of olive oil, salt, and pepper. A side of steamed vegetables and some fruit, and dinner was complete.
Letting your kids help, and eventually cook, the family’s meals is an on-going process. Begin small with them helping you, follow familiar recipes, and let them take over as you help them. Stay nearby, teach them to check the recipe periodically so they don’t skip a step or ingredient, and explain the differences between techniques such as whisking or dicing. Equally as important, bring them along to the grocery store when you have a little extra time. Teach them to compare unit prices, check produce for damage, and find a good deal. Let them pick out a recipe that they’re excited to make, or plan part of a special meal. Their excitement will be contagious, and you’ll be building their repertoire.