“I don’t like food that’s too carefully arranged; it makes me think that the chef is spending too much time arranging and not enough time cooking. If I wanted a picture I’d buy a painting.” Andy Rooney
Food. So wonderful and yet so annoying at the same time.
You must have it to survive, but it doesn’t cook itself.
The best tasting things are fatty. Like every single kind of cheese known to man.
It’s actually fun to cook up a new recipe… except that everyone wants dinner every single night.
But in all seriousness, cooking is a great way to teach children life skills and responsibility at the same time. Food is not free, shouldn’t be wasted, must be prepared regularly, and even requires at least minimal planning each week. I can’t find an expert quote to back me up, but it must be true that young adults who don’t know how to cook spend more money on junk food and fast food, simply because they aren’t confident making their own meals.
This is where us mamas come in.
I think for many Type-A moms cooking is one of those “just get it done” things. We want it go run smoothly, be efficient, and end well. It can be hard for us to think of it as a process, and this could actually make it more difficult for our children to be comfortable and confident in the kitchen if we aren’t careful. Of course, it could also mean they are ninjas in the kitchen because we institute some type of rigorous cooking schedule from infancy… but that’s probably more rare.
Here’s how we can get those kids cooking without it being a big deal.
1. Don’t make the kitchen off-limits.
Let it be normal to chill and mill around the kitchen. As long as they know where they aren’t allowed to go and what they shouldn’t touch, don’t have your kitchen be so precious they are rarely in it. I’m sure this is not the case for most families since kids tend to gravitate towards the kitchen for snacks, but I want to mention it just in case.
In fact, my little ones very clearly understand the oven is hot, the fridge is cool, and they shouldn’t stick their hands in random things on the stove top simply because they are around me enough to have “gotten it.”
2. Teach when it isn’t urgent.
If we aren’t careful (this often happens to me in this season of life) we wait to cook until the kids are already very hungry. Of course it’s okay for kids to wait, it teaches them patience, but the later it is the more cranky people are (adults included) and the more likely you are to just take over the kitchen and get the food made.
Use times during the day or before the night rush to teach your children cooking concepts and basic dishes (Find a 5 day cooking boot camp for small children here). When you’re relaxed, calm, and can enjoy the process with your kids they will learn better and you’ll feel less stressed. Because we know stressed moms aren’t very patient.
3. Rotate a child a night.
Val said once she has one child per night help her in the kitchen. I think this is a fabulous idea actually. Of course you can add more later if there’s room and they know what they’re doing, but you can actually have one person with you learning as you go without any issues. Too many kids and you are worried about what’s happening on what counter, but with one you can explain what you’re doing, teach basic concepts like boiling, sauteing, and temperatures, etc.
Also, this doubles as quality time with individual children. Once they are on autopilot you can use that time alongside them to talk about life. People will become more chatty if they are busy doing something with you because it takes some of the pressure off.
4. Let them learn the basics and actually help.
Really, the best way for you not to feel they are in the “way” in the kitchen is if they are actually a help (by the way, children aren’t in the way they are the way). If you make dinner rolls or biscuits most evenings, teach them this skill until they can do it without your help. Running water into pots, chopping vegetables, mixing, stirring, etc. If you actually take the time to teach them how to do something well they’ll become a welcome addition to the kitchen and not be in the way!
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