“Mommy, come play with me!”
Summer is a great time of the year. Without school and other obligations, we have more time to enjoy together. Everything becomes slower and relaxed…yet, sometimes boredom takes over. And that’s what happened to my 5-year-old son a few days ago.
“Why don’t we make dinner for daddy?” I inquire.
As soon as they could crawl, they were allowed in the kitchen. Although they helped me with little tasks like washing vegetables frequently, I’ve recently found that if I let them do practically everything on their own, I get my happy, balanced kids back.
Maybe it’s the joy of preparing something from scratch and the undivided focused attention that cutting requires?
Or the utter delight that they are doing something that adults do traditionally?
Or maybe it’s because they can implement new skills like counting, measuring and working alongside each other?
I don’t know.
But they leave the kitchen joyful, confident and vibrant. Every. Single. Time.
Added perk: I can applaud them all day. Why not let the positive effect shine a bright light on our evening as well?
Here are my tried and true steps:
- Decide to cook an easy meal. A basic pasta recipe with tomato sauce and ham will do for the first time.
- Prepare the kitchen. It’s up to you whether you take out the ingredients in advance, or you let your kids do it. I prefer the latter. This way they can learn where everything is stored, how the packaging looks like etc. Although cutting up the onions is something I rather do in advance.
- Announce that they are allowed to make dinner today. Make it a big deal. They should feel proud and excited.
- Take out a piece of paper and draw the different steps they can do. Cutting ham, pouring pasta into the pan, salting and spicing. Every tiny step on a different little square. You can decide to prepare this in advance, but it is also fun for them to watch you draw on paper while they guess which task it is.
- If you have more than one child, let them draw from a pot which task to do.
- Pull some chairs close to the kitchen top.
- Tell them what to take out, which task comes first and assist them when they need your help or when something is too dangerous (appliances, stove, etc.).
- Have fun.
- Set the table.
- Bon appetit.
The whole experience will create a lasting change in your family’s daily life and your kids’ behavior.
Not only will they be utterly proud of themselves when you tell their dad that they cooked the whole meal on their own.
But just imagine that from now on you can start involving them in meal planning, shopping and keeping the kitchen clean!
They are learning essential life skills while you can do less. I was seriously impressed when my 3 1/2 year old daughter cut the potatoes for our family of five in tiny little squares with a children’s knife, and I could lean back.
We shouldn’t let precious years go by until we assign them tasks.
I like to believe that by handing them the spoon, I prepare them to become confident adults.
Because the time will come that they will be no longer living under my roof. It is rather comforting for me to know that they will be able to throw a decent meal together.