- mess (especially when they’re younger)
- things take longer
- less adult control
- uneven results
- power struggles/fights
- new skills (for everyone!)
- time with your kid away from screens
- kids have great ideas
- less adult control
- kids really like eating the food they make
- more thank you’s when I cook
My teenage son has been cooking dinner once a week for almost a year now. When he turned 13 we asked him to take on this new duty. He’s hung around the kitchen episodically his whole life but the regularity of the last year has been new. I’m working on an article about getting kids (of all ages) into the kitchen and I’d love to hear how your kids help get food on the table.
I won’t pretend this year of cooking has been easy on either of us. Some of our worst fights have been on his dinner nights. I don’t know what exactly triggered them but I think it was that I wanted him to take control and he wanted me to tell him how to do everything. We persevered, with one memorable exception where he shut himself in the spare bedroom in the basement and we got take-out and started over the next night.
But things have gotten much more fun and his confidence and evident pride in taking charge and giving meals his own flair is so fun to see. Fish stick tacos (inspired by my husband’s childhood meal) are on regular rotation and he makes a mean slaw to go with them!
I think starting more regular cooking activities with him when he was younger would have been a good idea. We mostly baked together in the earlier years and he’d help chop and mix things and set and clear the table. I often just didn’t feel like I had the time to involve him regularly and really give him space. I’m sure he could tell how much I bristled at his pace, mess and incessant questions.
I would love to know how you’ve managed this, what you wish you’d done, or how things have worked out if your kids are older.
And as aside, I made my son an illustrated cookbook of the dishes he cooked most often this last year (most are my recipes that he’s adapted a bit or just loves as is). I posted about this book on social media and there was so much interest that I reproduced it in print and made digital copies available for purchase.
8 thoughts on “Kids in the Kitchen?”
That is some SWEET pasta making technique. If your feet aren’t involved, you’re not committed!
We assign our kids dinner-making ownership twice a month. The three of them have to plan the meal ahead of time (not always successful) and work together to execute (also not always successful).
Watching them figure out how to get this done is gratifying and often hilarious. They have a vested interest in success — they want to eat too. We’ve had our share of mishaps, messes, and explosions, but it has led to improved cooking skills, independence in the kitchen, and some rather tasty meals.
They’re still afraid of celeriac, though.
This is great! Thank you for sharing.
Susie M says:
Love this! My husband grew up making dinner one or two nights a week starting in seventh grade. My older son has helped me periodically but it’s never seemed to stick. Recently he made the cornbread because I had this panic attack, asking him: “are you just hoping you grow up and marry someone who knows how to cook?!” (He’s 11. Clearly I was overreacting.) My four-year-old absolutely loves to help stir things like granola and muffins and cornbread. I am trying to relinquish some control with the older one, like asking him to make his own breakfast and lunch, which is working. I’m not sure I have any wisdom except to say, my mom let me help in the kitchen and as an adult I knew how to do very basic and important things in the kitchen like make a roux and a spaghetti sauce and a salad dressing before I even started to really explore food, and these it seems to me are essential…so keep the tips coming!
Love this Susie. Thanks for sharing.
My husband and I went mostly plant-based when our son was a senior in high school. He learned the basics quickly as he didn’t want to eat what we were cooking. Now he’s a very good cook and often cooks vegetarian meals.
Necessity wins! Thanks for sharing.