Kids in the Kitchen
Kids in the Kitchen
The other night I received a gift. It was not in a beautifully wrapped package and came as a byproduct of the crazy spring weather we have been having. I had everything ready for a quick meal due to the fact my son had a baseball game; however, the coaches decided that 3rd graders did not need to play in freezing temperatures with snow blowing in their face. That gave me a night with no activities; no homework, and the opportunity for a family meal. I had planned on making flatbread pizzas with various toppings, but felt the occasion called for more now that we had no game. I had some zucchini in the refrigerator and decided to add a side of zucchini fries.
I was actually looking forward to letting my kids relax and play and it was not my intention that they help me with dinner, but they asked. My oldest said he wanted to make the zucchini fries (which he had made before) and I my youngest was to prepare his own pizza. After he got done with his pizza he asked if he could make mine. After making pizza the very best thing happened. My youngest asked if he could help with the zucchini fries and my oldest taught him what to do. It was glorious. I could not have asked for better family kitchen time and I did not even plan it.
It is important for kids to help in the kitchen, but this wonderful family time reminded me that sometimes it does not need to be overly planned. When things are overly planned we place too much pressure on the situation. I have always given my kids small jobs like setting the table, spinning the salad, stirring food, or arranging a fruit plate. When I have had big plans of them doing actual cooking it always seemed to fall short of my expectations and was met with much complaining.
There are many jobs kids can do in the kitchen, but start small. The important thing is that they are there with you and observing you. Some of the multiple benefits of kids helping in the kitchen is it can help teach math and measurements, increase exposure and interaction with different types of food, and lead to a sense of accomplishment for finishing a task. In my clinical practice as a pediatric dietitian I have consistently educated families about encouraging kids to help in small ways in the kitchen. This is something I typically always recommend for kids who are selective eaters due to sensory reasons. Some kids may not be excited about having an unfamiliar food on their plate or tasting a new food, but they may be willing to at least interact and be exposed to the food in the kitchen. The following are some ways you can start small:
- Set the table
- Pour the drinks
- Arrange a fruit and vegetable tray
- Request they retrieve some ingredients for you (this teaches them where things are in the kitchen).
- Use a salad spinner to make the salad
- Wash fruits and vegetables
- Teach proper handwashing (especially when dealing with raw meat and raw eggs)
If your child willingly takes part in making elaborate meals that is wonderful. However, some kids are not so happy in the kitchen; therefore, starting small is more feasible for them. Over time they may take more interest and you may get an awesome gift as well.