If there’s one thing I remember about growing up it’s that no matter what age my sisters and I were, we were always welcome in my Mom’s kitchen. But we didn’t just watch her cook – we helped her. So, when the time came for my kids to start helping me out with nightly dinners – I thought it would be easy-peasy. Boy, was I wrong. I thought about throwing in the towel, instead I called up my Mom and she reminded me that I needed a heaping bowl of patience and to keep things simple. Here are a few tips my Mom shared with me on getting my girls to enjoy helping out at mealtime.
1. Help Set the Table. When I set the table for my husband, I use the stuff most grown-ups use (things such as china plates and silverware). But I let the girls set the table for themselves, using place mats, napkins and plastic cups, plates and utensils.
2. Help Measure/Add/Mix Dry Ingredients. I learned this tip the hard way after watching my girls use an entire carton of chicken broth for a recipe that called for just a cup. Until they get older and stronger, stick to ingredients such as dried rice and beans.
3. Clean Fruits and Veggies. Do yourself a favor and invest in a dish bucket. It makes washing and cleaning produce a lot easier when you can bring the sink to little ones, instead of having them stand on a chair at the kitchen sink.
4. Help Shuck Corn. This can get messy with little helping hands wildly tearing off corn husks and silk strands. So, we set our kids near a trashcan that’s at their height level.
5. Break Pasta Noodles. I’m a Mom of two Carbatarians. You know what that means. There’s always pasta in our house. Whether it’s spaghetti or fettuccini I always let the girls break the noodles in half before I cook them.
6. Help Wipe Down Table. I’d always start with the first swipe to make sure no more remnants of dinner were wiped off the table and onto the floor. Then, I gave the girls a small spray bottle with toxic free kitchen cleaner and a towel to clean the table.