Let’s have a little heartfelt chat. Just you and me. Parenting is hard. There is a lot to do, and not a lot of time to do it. And cooking with your kids might not be at the top of your list of priorities. I mean, really – why do something with your kid if it will take you a thousand times longer than it would to do it by yourself? Admit it – you have asked this question. I know that I did. After a long day, I would put on our kids’ favorite show and let them zone out while I had some quiet time in the kitchen to make dinner. It felt like a win-win – they got to be entertained, I got to breathe, and get a meal on the table. There’s nothing wrong with that approach for dinner. Now’s the part where I tell you that sometimes it’s right to do the thing that feels hard. There ARE reasons to bring your kids in the kitchen. BIG ones. Important ones. Ones that can change their lives. It’s hard. For EVERYONE. So, let’s get real and talk about how to get it done without the stress.
Kids in the Kitchen – the biggest obstacles
I recently polled parents and heard your concerns loud and clear. There are some pretty major obstacles that commonly get in the way of getting your kids in the kitchen. These are normal, across the board. It’s not just you. The good news is that we can push through them and emerge on the other side.
I didn’t expect that my interviews would yield such emotional responses from people. It turns out that a lot of people want their kids to have a better experience with food than they had when they were young. Many mamas have struggled (or are currently struggling) with body image, challenges with weight management, and not being exposed to healthy foods growing up. At least 5 of the moms that I talked to said that they are fighting their personal baggage to this day, and vow to teach their kids the skills they need to avoid those same struggles. If their kids learn to make healthy foods, they might be able to have good self esteem and a healthier lifestyle. Use your kids as the motivation you need to move forward, get healthy, and be the role model you want to be.
Time and Space
Everyone feels rushed, and it’s nearly impossible to carve out extra time before dinner to cook with your kids. The good news is that you can get your kids into the kitchen any time. Have an extra hour on the weekends? What about after breakfast? You don’t even have to cook together for your kitchen time to be valuable! You can plan menus, write grocery lists, pre-measure ingredients for later, or even watch cooking shows together on television. You could also join Kids Cook with Books, our free virtual reading and cooking club for kid. Exposure to food and cooking is the key to helping your kids develop healthy eating habits. One bite-sized investment at a time.
Not everybody has Pinterest-worthy kitchens. In fact, very few of us do. Remember – cooking can happen anywhere. Do you have a kitchen table? That’s a perfect spot for kids to have their own little cooking station. It’s flat and steady – perfect for learning to scoop, measure, spread, and cut. If I could teach kids to cook on top of hay bales in the middle of a farm festival, you can do it in your own home. It’s worth reminding you that being with you around food is what matters – even if the kids are simply retrieving items from your cabinets, drawers or the refrigerator. Imaging the huge vocabulary they are gaining when you teach them what a colander, salad spinner or potato masher are, and where they can find them in your kitchen.
What can your kids actually do in the kitchen? What’s safe? What if you want to include kids who are different ages? I can help with that. In my upcoming Cooking with Kids Made Easy Challenge, I’ll be sending weekly emails with a menu of activities you can try with your kids. You’ll be surprised at the range of helpful tasks that your kids (even toddlers) can do in the kitchen. From rinsing lettuce for tomorrow’s salad to pushing buttons on the blender, your kids will grow more and more confident and skilled…and before you know it, they will be making you dinner!
It’s hard to include your kids in the kitchen when you are worried that they will hack off their finger, topple off a stool, or touch the hot stove. But if you start with baby steps, moving to incrementally challenging tasks over time, you and your kids will gain increased confidence to cook together. In our upcoming challenge, starting on November 1, I’ll help you tackle kitchen safety, along with identifying which tools (you already have!) your kids can safely use.
I’d love to hear what your biggest cooking with kids obstacles are OR any useful strategies you have developed. Let me know in the comments below!
Learn more about our Cooking with Kids Made Easy Challenge or sign up here!
Cooking with Kids Made Easy Challenge - a month of FREE weekly activities
Get weekly emails with realistic strategies, safety tips, healthy recipes and menus of simple ideas to help you connect with your kids and make healthy eating fun.
Our challenge begins on November 1, 2016!