A Little Relief–Kids in the Kitchen

Let me show you something amazing. 

I know it doesn’t look like much, but I think these three little list will make my summer much easier.  In case I haven’t bellyached enough in previous posts, I work full-time, have four kids and two dogs, and live in a 1,000 square foot house.  Neither luxury nor time abound in my life.  On top of all that normal aggravation, I have made the commitment to be as vegan as I can be.  It’s not easy.  Being as vegan as I can be means that I can’t just pop a Stouffer’s lasagna in the oven or pour a bag of Chicken Voila in a skillet.  We can’t drive through Arby’s and get the 5 for $5 deal on the way to ball practice.  I can’t complain about it too much because it’s a commitment I made by choice and generally I’m very happy with the results.  However, on a busy weeknight, it’s difficult.

So, I have devised a plan and you’re looking at the beginning of it.  Last weekend we did something brilliant–we told two of the kids to decide what they wanted to fix for dinner.  They looked up recipes online and in magazines and wrote up their shopping lists.  I added their lists to my grocery list and got all their ingredients for them.  Then, I wrote down what we’d be eating for the whole week.  Now, when someone meets me at the front door 2 nanoseconds after I get home from work and asks, “What’s for dinner?”  I don’t have to blink.  I just read the plan straight off the fridge.

If you would like to engage your children a little more in dinner, I have a few tips.

1.  Most importantly, be prepared to eat it no matter what it is.  After all, if you want great food, fix it yourself.  If you want a break from kitchen slavery, don’t bite the hand that’s feeding you. 

2.  Don’t expect them to be able to choose a recipe and follow it right away.  For a child that’s under 8, let him make sandwiches or a simple salad.  If you’re worried about knives, find a child-safe knife.  I have a couple of child-safe pumpkin carving knives that my kids used when they were younger that did the trick just fine.  Older kids can make just about any pasta dish (if you drain the hot water.)  By the time a child is 12, she should be able to follow a recipe off a box and then out of a cookbook or magazine.

3.  Don’t help.  If you’re in the kitchen overseeing every last step, they’re not really making it on their own.  If you’re doing all the hard parts or all the tricky parts, they’re not going to have the satisfaction of doing it.  Of course, you will have to supervise novices at the stove or pull a hot dish out of the oven.  But, that’s all.  Leave them alone and let them learn.  If you think they don’t know how to do something, then teach them one night when you’re cooking or write down specific instructions for the hard parts.

4.  Warn the kids ahead of time that they will have to clean whatever they mess up.  Naturally, when dinner is over, you’re going to help clean up the kitchen.  But, if the kids don’t go into it with the idea that they’ll have to clean up their own mess, you’ll be in trouble.  Besides, the point of this whole exercise is to make your life easier.  Cleaning up after a culinary tornado is not my idea of taking the evening off.

Our experiment has just begun, but we’re happy so far.  Last night we had a sugar snap pea stir fry and Israeli couscous compliments of our 14-year old.  Tonight we’re having arugula and peach salad, corn on the cob, and coconut milk ice cream compliments of our 12-year old.  Not bad, huh?

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2 responses to this post.

  1. I loved it when my children were old enough to cook. This is an awesome skill that you are teaching them and they will feel they have more choice and power in their lives. This can make the teenage years much easier. Enjoy the fun you have opened up for your family!

    Reply

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