Guest post from Mystie Winckler
My kids love to help in the kitchen. At least one or two are sure to be milling around as soon as they hear the clank of drawers and bowls that signal “Mommy is making something.”
I consider my children’s help in the kitchen analogous to apprenticeship more than entertainment or amusement. They start with the menial work (however, young children don’t usually see it that way; they love doing whatever real work they can alongside Mommy or Daddy), watching and learning. Gradually, as they understand the process, they earn more and more responsibility.
There aren’t always jobs they can do, of course. Sometimes I set them up on the counter and tell them, “Watching is helping.” And it’s not a total cop-out, either. Children are incredibly observant and do learn so much more than we realize simply by watching. Talk to them as you work about what you are doing. And, at our house, tasting-as-you-go is the cook’s (and the cook’s helper’s) prerogative.
Here are my best tips on kids helping in the kitchen:
- Gather and throw away vegetable ends & peels as I chop.
- Gather and toss garbage as we go.
- Dump ingredients into the mixing bowl or pot.
- “Wash” sturdy dishes in a sink of water.
- Help with stirring and mixing.
- Fetch items from the pantry or fridge.
- Return items to the pantry or fridge.
- Put toppings on pizzas.
- Wash the counters.
- Peel carrots.
- Scrub potatoes.
- Tear, wash, and spin salad.
- Use the kitchen scissors to cut certain foods.
- Stir the pot on the stove.
- Measure ingredients.
- Load the dishwasher.
- Read the recipe to me as we go.
- Read and follow simple recipes.
- Begin making parts of dinner as I supervise.
My goal is to have each of the children able to make several dinners from scratch by themselves (including remembering all the menial clean-as-you-go tasks!) by age 10 or 11. Eventually, perhaps by 12, they will each get their own night to simply make dinner, period. I started in the kitchen at age 9 myself with macaroni and cheese and easy cookies and progressed to making one dinner a week by the time I was 11. That experience greatly helped my own confidence and skill in the kitchen, and I would love to give that ability to my children, as well.
Do you have any tips to share? I’d love to add them to my list!
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