One of my favorite comfort foods is cookies. I know it is naughty, but I can mow through a pile of them in no time. So when I walked in the door this afternoon, only to discover my oldest daughter had baked cookies while I was gone, I…um, well…ate more than I should have. I really appreciate when my kids help out in the kitchen.
For the last several weeks, I have posted various ways our family makes sure we eat dinner together almost every night. So far, I shared:
- Why I Plan a Menu
- How I Plan a Menu
- How I Find Time to Cook from Scratch
- My Favorite Cooking Strategies
- How We Creatively Brown Bag Meals
Today I want to discuss the importance of getting the whole family to help out in the kitchen. I cannot get meals on the table successfully and consistently without help. For us, dinner is an entire family project. These are my top four ways to utilize kids in the kitchen:
1. Everyone gets a job–even little kids.
Small children can help wash vegetables, set the table, and serve food. My children understand that if they are anywhere near the kitchen when a meal is being prepared, they will be put to work.
2. Our kids know how to cook real food.
As our girls have gotten older, each of them has learned how to cook age-appropriate things. In the beginning, we utilized workbooks from 4H to help us teach proper microwave and baking techniques. Then we branched into family recipes.
Our oldest daughter knows how to bake most things from scratch and can successfully prepare just about any simple food without assistance. Our middle child can make excellent foods in the microwave–even pineapple upside down cake. Our youngest daughter does not cook, but she helps with prep work, assembly, and getting the table ready.
When I plan the menu, I intentionally build in meals that the kids can prepare or at least get started for me if I know I will be tied up with other tasks. My girls always know what is on the menu. If necessary, I write out any instructions for them when their help is needed in the kitchen. If they ever feel in doubt, I am only a question away.
3. We let our kids experiment in the kitchen, even if the end result might be gross.
Every task learned well needs to be practiced. Our kids will never become competent in the kitchen as adults if we do not let them gradually learn new skills now. Keeping safety in mind, we let the girls prepare just about anything they want.
Yes, we sometimes stomach food that did not turn out as expected. In all honesty, though, that happens when Todd and I cook, too. Everyone has to start somewhere.
4. Everyone helps with clean up.
All of our family members clear their own dishes from the table. Everyone over the age of ten has regular dish duty. By sharing the load, no one individual is burdened with cleanup by themselves.
Sometimes our youngest daughter helps out during dish time by playing in the sink with a turkey baster while someone else washes. She likes the water sprayer, too. Most of the time her efforts are pretty helpful.
With the season of Advent upon us, life is quickly becoming pretty busy. Christmas programs, shopping, baking, worship services, and celebrations are upon us. In the midst of the chaos, our family hopes to continue coming together for meals as frequently as possible.
When we share a meal, we reconnect emotionally. We enjoy the company of one another, support each other, and share in the blessings offered to our family.
May your family also enjoy the experience of eating dinner together.
How does your family make dinner together a priority? Share your ideas with me in an email or comment below.