Why Getting Your Kids Involved in Cooking Is Actually Great
Teach even the youngest chefs and keep your sanity? Totally doable.
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Welcoming your kids into the kitchen when you're making dinner, rather than telling them — repeatedly — to get out, can make for a much more enjoyable evening. It's true! Assigning your kids simple kitchen tasks will keep their focus off fighting with each other and making a mess of the dining room while you're cooking ... err, I mean it'll teach them important life skills and give them confidence. Whatever. Here's why you should cook dinner with your kids tonight.
A meal the kids help make is one they're likely to eat. Sometimes, strange as it might sound, eight hands are NOT better than two. But pizza night is not one of those nights. Pizza night in our house means I won't have to hear "But I wanted grilled cheeeeeese" whined at me as soon as I put their plates on the table. I can make The Pioneer Woman's basic pizza dough days ahead; when pizza night rolls around, I divide the dough, then they spread on the sauce (or not), top with cheese and assemble their own smiley pepperoni faces. They're happy to get their hands messy in the kitchen, I get help making dinner and they're excited to eat their creations. I win.
Everyone loves a good game. Here's a simple concept that works in our house: I talk my three 5-year-olds (not a typo) into playing "sous chef." I tell them I'm the executive chef, rightfully so, and that assisting the executive chef is really important. Stress that their jobs matter! My kids love searching for condiments (without hearing "Close the fridge!"). They will happily pay through the pantry for pasta, beans and more staples, allowing me to focus on tasks they can't handle, like chopping.
Kids like cleaning things (they just don't know they like it). The kitchen sink holds a mysterious appeal for my kids, probably because they don't use it often. (I might have an irrational fear of them controlling the faucet sprayer.) So encouraging them to stand at the sink with a bowl of water? If only it'd remain this easy to make all their dreams come true. Have them wash herbs and veggies for dinner. They'll have this dinner prep thing down in no time, and you can quietly clap for yourself when they're not looking.
Spending time with them in the kitchen tonight can make tomorrow morning easier. Busy nights in our house lead to busy mornings — it's a vicious cycle. But there are a few things we can do in the evenings to make our mornings run a bit more smoothly. Whether I like doing them is another story. Case in point: emptying the dishwasher. It's not my fave. But my little sous chefs are pretty good at putting away silverware (they think they're so dangerous touching the butter knives!) and they rarely complain about getting their own (read: light) plates out for dinner. They'll learn responsibility; you'll get the kitchen cleaned up quicker. The moral of this story: Let the little ones help with everything from meal prep to cleanup tonight and you'll all reap the rewards tomorrow!