The word strikes fear into my heart. I have to cook it almost every day. In the most stressful times I will find myself stuck in a cooking rut faced with whiney children. What’s a parent to do?
Cook with the kids.
It’s a bit counterintuitive because it definitely takes more time than cooking solo. However, when my children are invested in the meal through planning and effort we reap several benefits:
- Cooking becomes family time instead of a chore for Mom or Dad.
- The children are excited to eat the dinner they helped prepare
- We tend to eat healthier meals.
Ready to try it out?
Plan: Let your children (if they are old enough) help choose the meal to cook. You can browse cookbooks or websites together or just ask them for their ideas. In our home, I prompt them to include seasonal fruits and veggies, or let them know ingredients we have on hand. Even letting them choose from a list pre-approved by me makes them feel more invested in the meal.
Prep: The last thing you want to do when you are cooking with children is fumble around for equipment and ingredients. An advantage of planning is that it gives me a grocery list. We go through our recipe together and get out what we need. Even my 8 year old still needs a footstool, and everybody gets an apron.
Read the recipe as you go: When you model reading directions it helps your child’s reading development. Directional reading requires different reading skills than reading a story. If your children are reading independently, let them read the recipe to you.
Be safe: Excited children can forget that stoves are hot and knives are sharp so keep a sharp eye out. For very young children, it’s easier to start with no-cook recipes.
Clean-up: Children can be messy in the kitchen, so expect to spend a little more time on clean-up. Since clean-up is a part of cooking, all cooks are expected to help! This might result in some water splashing, but I like to see that as an opportunity to teach my children about mopping.
Can we talk about cookbooks at the library? 641 is one of my favorite call numbers. It’s tremendous fun to browse the vast cookbook selection at our libraries in both the adult and children’s departments. I like to check out a new cookbook every month or so. If I find myself looking for it again and again I know it’s one I should add to my personal cookbook collection. Giving cookbooks a test drive is a real money saver for my family. Here are a few to get you started. You can browse for more at www.kentonlibrary.org.
And here few handy websites to help you get started:
And of course, you’ll find a cornucopia of ideas on Pinterest.
-Amy Schardein, Children’s Librarian