It’s been a long time coming, but here’s another in my series about cooking with children.
One of my readers asked how I cooked with multiple children, and what I did on the days I was cranking out multiple freezer meals. Honestly, I felt ill-equipped to answer the first question, as I was not including Claire in the kitchen that much at the time. And the answer to the second question seemed too simplistic to make a blog post out of – I put movies in for them while I cook! LOL But I’ve been gathering some hints and some ideas over the past few months and hope to inspire you to include your children in the kitchen more…
1. Start young. I can’t emphasize this enough. Jesse has been ‘cooking’ with me for 3 years – ever since he could grasp a spoon in his hand. Helping Mommy is and always has been considered a privileged and a treat. Now that he is 4 I am beginning to see the fruit of all of that quality time spent together back when his presence usually made more work for me. He has become an asset in the kitchen. He can now do some simple tasks completely on his own, like fetching me the right sized mixing bowl, or a cup of sucanat from my bulk-food buckets in the pantry. He is also (drumroll, please!) now emptying the dishwasher all by himself. And this was his idea. He loves it (most days). He loves the satisfaction of a job well done. This is a gift I have given him because I have taught him to enjoy work from infancy.
2. Plan ahead. I have two different types of cooking sessions. Sometimes the kids help, sometimes they don’t. Both types of cooking require planning ahead. If I’m trying to crank out a half a dozen freezer meals, or make food for Church potluck and the rest of the weekend meals so I can have Sunday off, or if I’m late starting dinner and am racing the clock, I plan to occupy the kids outside of the kitchen. Pull out a toy they haven’t seen in a while, or a feature length movie (instead of the 20-30 min. Signing Time or Thomas Episodes). I will also try to get ‘sprints’ done in the kitchen while the kids are resting. Trying to cook up a marathon and be a focused mommy at the same time is no fun for anyone. So, plan ahead.
3. Take your time. The times when I most often have the kids help me are when I’m not in a hurry. Then we actually have fun. Then it won’t matter if we spill and have to take time out to wipe up a broken egg or sweep up a cup of sugar. If you’re in a hurry, these moments can spawn anger and frustration, and turn your kids off of ever helping in the kitchen. If it doesn’t matter what time the bread goes in the oven, you can relax, and even help them clean up their mistakes (which, of course, takes even more time than doing it yourself). If you’re racing the clock to get something done before getting out the door, then it really is wiser to occupy smaller children outside the kitchen
4. Mimic the Masters. Do like those chefs on TV, or the great food bloggers – set out your ingredients in advance – especially if your kids are going to help. Their attention spans are short. If they have to wait for you to find the next spice for them to measure, or locate your rolling pin, they are going to lose interest and might start making trouble. Set out your ingredients and the needed equipment before you call them into the kitchen (unless it is something they are capable of fetching for you) so that once they tie their apron on, you guys are ready to go.
5. Encourage them. Let them stir. Show them the right technique to holding the spoon and the bowl and them praise them when you see the ingredients blending into each other. Try to keep yourself from taking over for them if they’re not doing it as well as you could. This will discourage them. Let them try, let them make mistakes, and keep the atmosphere positive. Remember when you learned to cook, and try to create an atmosphere that you would have liked.
Remember, you’re investing in your future when you make it fun for your young children to help in the kitchen now. 10 years from now you will have an efficient team of sous chefs who will be able to whip up a meal for company while you sit back and marvel. But hopefully, you’ll be right in there with them, making memories.
I promise the next post in this series will be up as soon as I upload photos from last week. I had my 7 year old nephew here and we had a few cooking sessions with both him and Jesse in the kitchen. I’ll tell you I dealt with the rivalry, and how much fun it was to have a 7 year old in the kitchen – talk about helpful! C’mon, get your kids in the kitchen now! It’s gonna be worth it later on!
Do you enjoy these posts? Help me spread the word about my blog! Tell your friends! I desire to pass on encouragement and inspiration to other young mothers. Feel free to link to my blog or any of my articles, as long as you post a link back to me! Thanks!