Getting it Done with Little Ones, Part #5

 Here’s the final post in the series!

In Part One, I shared my #1 tip for getting things done in a house-full of little ones!
In Part Two, I talk about the Why and How of teaching your kids to work along side you.
In Part Three, I shared how having Jesse help me was the solution to a bad day
In Part Four, I talked about creating an atmosphere that will help your kids enjoy helping.

Today I’m gonna tackle the question of how to work with multiple children in the kitchen.

When my nephew came out to stay last month, he was really excited to help me in the kitchen. His enthusiasm was catching – whenever I called him into the kitchen, Jesse was right behind him. I soon realized that having multiple children in the kitchen was going to require additional strategizing.
There was actually an argument over how many garlic cloves each boy would get to crush! (there was an odd number -horrors!) As Claire has matured and is ready to be a part of the team, I’ve had to get even more creative when we work together.

Benjamin is helping me make Squash Apple Bake – my new favorite squash recipe!

Trying to pretend your kids aren’t going to fight in the kitchen is going to set you up for failure. Instead, let’s admit there are going to be some challenges and think of some creative ways to deal with them. (Squash Recipe)

Divide and Conquer
 Part of the preparation for a ‘group cooking session’ should be thinking through how you will divide the tasks so each child feels like they are important to the team. Two bowls  – one for each child – is a great idea! Now is not the time to try to explain to your 2 and 4 year old that ‘life is not fair’. Go ahead and divide jobs as evenly as you can so they don’t resent each others presence in the kitchen. One child can mix the dry ingredients, one the wet when mixing a batch of muffins. When you pour the ingredients together, they can learn to share when they each get a turn with the spoon. But as much as you can, keep them both busy at the same time, or there will be boredom and jealousy.

Communicate the Plan
You will inspire team work if you let them in on the goal. Explain what you’re making, and how you are going to do it. They will cope better with waiting for the next step if they know what to expect.

  • “First we’re going to grate the cheese, they you will get to sprinkle it on top!”
  • “When the onions are cooked, we’re gonna add the carrots, then you can stir.”
  • “Listen for the timer! When it goes, we can check on the muffins and see if they’re done!”

Jesse and Benjamin working together.

Praise and Thanks
Praising each child and thanking them for their help will help them each feel like an essential part of the team.

  • Praise them to each other – “Look, Jesse! See how Claire is stirring? She learned that from your good example!” 
  • Thank them individually, “Jess, thanks – I couldn’t have done it with out you and it was so much fun with you here beside me!”

Maybe you don’t feel particularly grateful as you contemplate the mess you have to clean up off the floor when they’re done, but speaking positively to your children will help ensure that they think helping you is the highlight of their day.

How it Works at Our House
Last week I attempted one of our first Group Cooking Sessions with Jesse and Claire both in the kitchen. We were making my favorite pizza dough recipe, and I realized that it was an ideal recipe for cooking with two children – in the beginning you measure flour, water and salt into one bowl, and flour, water, and yeast into another bowl. I gave them each a bowl and a spoon, then started adding the ingredients. We counted out loud as Claire first did one cup of flour, then Brother. Then back to Claire, and then Brother again. I measured and they poured. They stirred and sampled their dough and really had fun.

If you are planning on trying to get several children in the kitchen this week, I’d recommend homemade pizza! After the dough has soaked and risen, you can roll them out each an individual pizza crust and they can decorate it with their favorite toppings.

I am just starting to get a taste of what it will be like when my kids are older – Jesse is capable of more and more independent tasks. It is amazing how helpful it is to have someone who can fetch ingredients from the fridge for me, or empty the dishwasher. I hope these posts have inspired you to call your kids into the kitchen today. As always, I invite you to share your own stories and tips in the comment section!

One response to “Getting it Done with Little Ones, Part #5”

  1. SarahElisabeth Avatar

    Like this-hope it is OK to link to this.
    One other thing that I find helpful is having one child on each side rather than both together. Once more than two are involved in cooking, there is usually one who can be more responsible or seat them at different points round the kitchen table!

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