by Bobbi Boteler RD, LD
I think a lot of times, moms (or dads) would rather be in the kitchen alone then have help from either their kids or their spouse because things probably get done quicker, and with less mess. I’ve had this same thought myself. However, allowing our kids to explore food and food preparation provides an opportunity to create positive food experiences with your child, develops their confidence with food, and is a wonderful opportunity to spend quality time together.
Some points to remember:
- It’s OK to make a mess!
- Coming from mostly a type A mom, who likes order, cleanliness, and control, this has been a challenge for me, but it is so important to honor. Let your kids measure, spoon out, pour, or mold ingredients on their own (of course with you right there). Yes there will be spills, messes, food on the floor, food on them, but it will clean up! And it gives them a chance to be creative, explore, and gain confidence.
- Allow them to choose what’s for dinner
- I think children are more excited to help mom or dad in the kitchen if they are helping prepare a food they picked out on their own.
- As a parent, exude happiness, pleasure, and excitement around food.
- If your child’s role model (you) enjoys food, takes pleasure in making meals, your child will be more willing and open to help out. The more excited we as parents are around food, the more comfortable and happy our children will be.
- There are no rules in the kitchen (besides don’t burn or cut yourself!)
- As a parent, try to relax when your child is helping out in the kitchen. Avoid criticizing them, or taking over because they are not doing it the same way you would.
- Allow them to take the lead when it is safe.
- Let them taste what they are making along the way.
- If they want to touch and feel every ingredient that goes into a meal, let them. Yes, it may add on 10 minutes to the prep time, but its ok.
- Keep discussion open in the kitchen
- Talk with your child while you are together about what they see, what the foods feel like, look like, taste like. Ask them at the end what their favorite part of the experience was.
- Stay positive!
- Compliment your child while they are helping you.
- Thank them for their help when you are done together. This allows them to feel appreciated, cared about, and excited to help out again.
The kitchen can really be a fun place for the entire family. Many times after my kids and I are done preparing something, I look around and just have to laugh. There is food everywhere, they are covered in food, I am covered in food, but we are all laughing and have had the best time. Our kids will not be excited to come help out if there are too many rules, if there is stress put upon them that there can’t be any messes, or that we need to get this done as fast as we can to move on to the next household duty. As a parent, relax, and enjoy your child’s presence in the kitchen. It can be a wonderful thing.