5 Reasons Why Cooking and Kicking-It With Your Kids is Cool.
As Thanksgiving approaches, we are planning a small meal at our house. My 3 year old and husband went grocery shopping with me and she informed us that she "is a great idea maker!" It took about an hour longer than usual as my team was distracted by anything shiny or sweet.
And apparently, somewhere along the line grocery stores have had an identity crisis and are trying to be toy stores. Stop it with the Barbies on the chip aisle!!! But that's a whole other blog.
Back to my daughter's Thanksgiving menu, which includes chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, and eggs. She recently has navigated new territory in the kitchen. Thinking outside the bowl now, she is very concerned with recycling and cleaning up. It's too much fun to see her really grasp the ideas that show up in the kitchen. She wants to watch as the food changes in the oven and is super into the transformation of textures in mixing ingredients. I just love seeing her process what we are doing together and the pride she feels from creating a great meal.
1. Mathematical, Scientific and Creative properties of cooking.
Measuring, adding, dividing, separating, mixing, blending, dissolving, thickening, changing. This is all terminology that crosses over from math into cooking and into science. When you have a running dialogue with your kids in the kitchen, teachable moments arise and are in every fiber of your recipe. Some parents feel they can't let their children help because something is sharp or hot. Search for ways they CAN help. My best stress-busting trick is to give my 3 year old a safe work space that is her own. Setting up a place at the kitchen table or letting her stand on a stool next to me in the actual work-space of the kitchen creates pure joy in the eyes of my little girl. Teaching how to use a measuring cup is one of the most useful tricks. With precut potatoes, have them count how many pieces. They are great at tearing off sprigs of rosemary or sprinkling on cheese. With very little effort, there are plenty of important jobs that can be gifted to the children. Let them get creative with their jobs! With their input, you may just come up with a surprise twist in a traditional recipe. Or mess it up royally. Then you've cooked up a great story, so...nothing lost!
2. Cooking up Convos with Kids.
When you do an activity together, you are creating lasting memories. Cooking together creates a common experience that causes more than the dough to arise. Taking the opportunity of waiting for something to bake, cool, or congeal is the perfect time to ask you kids questions and watch conversation arise out of these moments. When it's time to chow down, we pile up the cell phones and I-things and look to each other for news.
3. Social Responsibility.
When the children realize that everyone has a part in creating the meal, it teaches them to appreciate the hard work that goes into it. Cleaning up is an integral part in teaching social responsibility too. In appreciation for the great meal, we all do our part to clean up and make a great environment in our kitchen for cooking once again. We don't just use it up and move on to a new clean kitchen. We aren't doing our kids any favors by cleaning up after them totally EVERY time. You may do most of the clean up on heavy homework or game days, but kids have an opportunity to feel pride in having a clean house by making it that way. I mean, who am I kidding? My 3 year old pushes around a sponge which just evenly disperses the crumbs and gunk, but A for Effort. Affort.
4. Love your environment.
Recycle. Everything. Recycle everything. Teaching kids to appreciate the environment begins with a dialogue at home which manifests out of actions observed. When you make recycling a habit at your home and infuse it with purpose, you can change the world. The earth and your kids will thank you for it.
5. Saving $ and Gaining Piece of Mind.
Listen, I enjoy the magic of eating out just as much as the next person. We have long bouts when we are traveling, where eating out isn't as much a choice, but more of the only option. I really do enjoy this too sometimes. The catch is the expense and not knowing exactly what you are getting in that gravy.
Our meals are not fancy, but the quality lies in the company as much, if not more than, the food. Let's be honest though, if you are making time for dinner with family, no matter where it is, you are already accomplishing something great!