Making the change from a fast and processed food diet to our real food lifestyle has brought about some unexpected happy side-effects. One of them is we now spend more time at the dinner table together. Dinner is my favorite time of day. We use the time to reconnect as a family and talk about our days. My children all have different personalities. Some really like to talk and the others would just sit back and listen. To make sure none of them were left out, I adopted the practice of “Roses and Thorns”. We go around the table and take turns telling each other about the best and worst parts of our days. We usually discuss each rose and thorn so this really keeps the conversation going through dinner. I love to hear that the worst part of the day was “not enough recess”, but I’m also prepared that there might be something more serious. I always have my SuperMom cape with me so I’m ready for action!
Another pleasant side-effect of our real food lifestyle is cooking. I’ve discovered that I really enjoy cooking. I find it a nice way to unwind from the stress of work. I also really enjoy cooking with my kids. I try not to raise my children to be stuck in gender-specific roles, but I’ll be honest…………my daughter cooks with me the most. My oldest son who is away at college most of the year probably cooks with me the second most.
With Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Day coming in May, I’ve been giving a lot of thought to cooking with kids. Don’t know about Food Revolution Day? You can read my post about it here or check out the Food Revolution Day website. Here are some of my thoughts to make cooking with your kids more enjoyable.
1. Prepare yourself mentally. OK………you aren’t going to war here, but they are kids. You know they make messes, ask a lot of questions and easily get distracted. Keep in mind that each time they cook with you they are learning skills that will last a lifetime……no matter how slow the progress seems to you.
2. Pick a good time to have the cooking lesson. The last thing you want to do is add stress to your life. Don’t pick the day that you only have a few minutes to get dinner to the table and run back out of the house. Pick a time when you and your child can really relax and have a good time. Avoid right before naptime and other times when your child is more cranky than usual.
3. Don’t cry over spilled milk. Avoid recipes with expensive ingredients and be prepared to laugh when they make a mess. I don’t let my kids pour the maple syrup as I view this as an expensive ingredient. I really hate to see $10 of syrup laying on my counter. I avoid the stress by pouring it out myself. The other day I gave my daughter a bowl of dry ingredients to stir. She dug right in and gave it a big stir. As a result, she scooped about half the ingredients right out of the bowl. I certainly could have yelled at her to be more careful. Instead, I laughed and said, “Well we know better than to do that next time.” She relaxed and seemed to understand that it is OK to make mistakes in the kitchen as long as we learn from our mistakes. I will never forget my baby boy’s (yes, he is 7) first attempt at cracking an egg. I took a picture of it so I would never forget. It will always be one of my fondest memories. Not the mess, but the fun time we had learning to cook together.
4. Make sure they know the rules of the kitchen. Figure out based on their age what they are and are not allowed to do. I allow my daughter to cut foods, but my youngest still needs supervision. I do not allow the younger ones to use the “power tools” without my supervision. I don’t want to end the cooking lesson with a trip to the emergency room. If you lay down the ground rules ahead of time, you won’t have the constant “No, No, Nos” that can really make the lesson stressful for both you and your child.
5. Pick a shorter recipe to start with. You don’t need anything too complicated to have a really great lesson with your child. Make cookies, pizza, salad dressings. Whatever you choose will be fine as long as it only has a few ingredients and doesn’t take too long to prepare. You can add more complicated recipes as their attention span and cooking skills increase.
Have fun cooking with your kids. It is so much fun watching their kitchen skills increase and see the pride they have in knowing they did a good job. My daughter actually gets a little jealous of the others if she is left out of the cooking. She now likes to be right by my side when the fun begins.
I’ve talked long enough. Now I want to hear from you! What helps you to keep your cool when working with kids in the kitchen? What is your favorite recipe to cook with kids? We all like to laugh……..tell me your kitchen nightmare stories. Anyone else have eggs on the floor?
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You might want to try this fun waffle sandwich recipe. My kids love this in the lunchbox.