September happens to be one of my favorite months. School is back in full swing and fall weather is fast approaching. It also happens to be National Kids Take Over The Kitchen Day on Sept. 13, which I think is cause to celebrate.
I don’t know about you, but like most moms, I could use a break from the constant dinner preparation.
Meal planning can be so exhausting as a parent. Trying to find something to make that everyone (including your super picky child) will eat without complaints can be so tiresome. Why not take advantage of the opportunity to pass the buck to your kids on Sept. 13 and let them plan the menu and make dinner? I will happily be handing the apron over to our kids that day and I invite you all to join.
Here are my top four tips to get your kids cooking in the kitchen.
Buy the kids’ gear.
If you can afford it, check online for some fun aprons or chef hats. We’ve even found fun kids’ kitchen gear at thrift stores and yard sales. Having their own special gear sets the scene for them wanting to help out in the kitchen. The absolute best purchase we’ve ever made was kid-friendly plastic knives that allowed my daughter to chop fruits and veggies alongside me without fear of losing a finger. She started at age 3 chopping with the kid-friendly knives and by 5, she was using a real knife with no issues at all. Now at age 7, I don’t even have to supervise her knife skills, she’s better than me.
Plant a garden.
One of the best things we’ve done to get our child interested in cooking (and eating) healthy food was to grow it ourselves. Plant a backyard garden or even just a few pots of herbs on a windowsill. It’s amazing how much fun it is for kids to help plant, water, and harvest goodies from the garden. My daughter’s favorite task this summer is picking tomatoes from the vine and chopping them for our recipes. She hates almost all vegetables but has been willing to try lettuce, tomatoes, and basil directly from our garden. There’s something really fun about cooking and preparing food you have grown yourself. Children love it, and so will you.
Let them have a say in the kitchen.
Parenting can often mean falling into routines and not changing things up much because we know what works and what doesn’t, and we are too exhausted to change the norm. That means not letting our kids control a lot of things because they may not always pick the best or smartest options. But relinquishing some of that control may actually be helpful. Since our daughter was around 3 years old, we let her have “me days.” Similar to a yes day, she gets to plan the menu for the day, as long as she helps prepare the food. It’s always an adventure to see what she plans.
She takes over our kitchen now a few times a month and makes her specialties – usually french toast and eggs or cheese quesadillas, but she can make them now fully on her own. It’s nice to hand over the reins to her creativity and take the night off. Last month, she even incorporated a lot of veggies from our garden and made sure to make me a salad to go with my quesadillas. If anything, it’s nice to not have to fight her to eat the meal she’s prepared because at least on those nights, she is happy to partake in eating. Letting your kids plan and execute a menu may seem overwhelming, but it can also be a lot of fun. Our daughter even makes homemade menus on her night and place cards. Let your kids be creative and see how much fun they can have in the kitchen.
Having children means having buckets and buckets of patience, especially if you plan to let them cook alongside you in the kitchen. They will make messes. They will make each task take ten times longer. They will probably fight about the amount of chocolate chips to put in the recipe. They may likely drive you crazy in the process. Do it anyway. Children who cook alongside you are 10 times more likely to try a new dish. They also eventually can start cooking alone, and you and your spouse can take a night off every once in a while and pat yourselves on the back for helping grow a self-sufficient kid.
That is until you see the mess afterwards. But then remind yourselves, sometimes raising good humans is messy.