Allowing your children to help out in the kitchen is a win-win situation for all involved: When you involve your child in meal preparation, he or she is more likely to develop an interest in eating and trying new foods. It increases a child’s confidence and self-esteem. It teaches them a useful, necessary skill. It offers quality family time together. It expands your child’s culinary horizons. Your child’s assistance can really ease your cooking burdens.
Even if your children are too young to truly help, it is never too early to begin teaching them kitchen skills by allowing them to assist you in the kitchen. Whenever possible, include your family in planning menus, shopping for and putting away the groceries, preparing meals, setting the table and cleaning up (including washing and putting away the dishes and silverware).
- Start by designating an accessible part of the kitchen as the “Kids Kitchen Corner.” Put non-breakable plates and glasses there and make sure silverware is nearby. Designate a bowl for fruit, snack bars, and other items for kids to snack on.
- Provide counter space and a notepad where kids can maintain their own grocery list as supplies dwindle.
- Kids can have their own corner in the fridge too, where they can easily locate cheese sticks, drinks, yogurt and other refrigerated items without holding the door open for long periods.
- Invite them to go to the grocery store to develop their own nutritious lunch and snack ideas. Read labels for calorie counts and preservatives, assess packaging and comparison shop for price value.
- Encourage children to make their own lunches and snacks, get their own drinks and then clean up by stacking their dishes or putting them in the dishwasher.
Try to provide encouragement and instruct rather than criticize. Begin any advice with praise. “Gee you did a great job packing your lunch, but let’s put your banana and sandwich on top of your juice so they don’t get mashed.” Don’t expect kids to strive for perfection, but encourage them to reach for accomplishment. Be consistent and helpful, but don’t take over.
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