My kids are handy to have around. They frequently help empty the dishwasher, put away their own folded laundry and my eight-year-old son is pretty skilled with a vacuum. At six years old, my daughter owns four aprons and loves to help in the kitchen. This may sound like I'm bragging (and maybe I am a little) but having kids do chores is not without sacrifice.
That folded laundry is often put away in the manner you might expect of a a first grader and sometimes the glassware needs to be checked before use since children aren't always looking for spots the dishwasher may have missed.
And cooking with kids? Cooking with kids is a mess waiting to happen. Working in the kitchen beside my children is one of those things that can make me crazy, but that I love.
Lessons in Math
Food is woven throughout all cultures and is the cornerstone of our survival. Food means love and celebration and safety. Food preparation is a science lesson woven into art, and while I'm begging my kids to get the flour into the bowl and not all over the ground, we're practicing fractions.
"Two half cups equals one whole cup. Be careful with that sugar. We don't want the ants coming back this year."
Or, "If the recipe calls for two eggs and we're doubling the recipe, how many eggs do we need?"
Lessons in Nutrition
My kids will eat banana bread and chocolate chip cookies even if they don't help prepare it, but my son is much more likely to eat the vegetables he's helped peel and slice himself. For years the kids have been able to pick our dinner menu once a week. It needs to be a balanced meal (which generates a great conversation about proper nutrition) and they always do a great job of eating well on those days.
We started simple. When the kids were about 4 years old, they would put a banana on a cutting board and slice it with a butter knife. Later, they'd move on to peeled cucumbers and hard-boiled eggs. By the time they were 5 they could make their own sandwiches and, in the process, smear mayonnaise or peanut butter all over my counter.
Lessons in Independence
Now, as first and third graders, my kids have a handful of things they can make themselves.
If my kids opened a restaurant today, the menu would include: microwavable oatmeal, veggies and dip, various sandwiches, hummus wrapped in a tortilla, lunch meat wrapped in a slice of cheese, rice cakes with peanut butter, scrambled eggs, cereal (with or without milk), egg salad and cheese quesadillas.
Some of those require a tiny bit of assistance. For example: I need to hard boil the eggs for egg salad and I make sure I'm near the kitchen when they're scrambling eggs. Otherwise, they're in charge for the most part.
The kids love being able to make food, and even though my pans will never be the same after their first few scrambled egg attempts, I'm proud of their efforts. I know the satisfying feeling of preparing a meal for myself and for my loved ones. I also know the satisfying feeling of sipping my coffee while my kids whip up their own oatmeal before school.
We are careful with knives and stoves, but as the children get older they'll tackle more difficult recipes and will get more time in front of the burner. I'll teach them to sauté and to dice, and I'm hopeful these efforts will expand their palates and eventually lead to them cooking proper meals for me.
A girl can dream, right?
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