Teach children chores in the kitchen safely and enjoyably! By giving them age appropriate tasks and allowing them to help when they’re willing, kids grow up with valuable skills and an excitement to participate in mealtime prep. Even the smallest children can help in the kitchen!
Do your kids ask to help out in the kitchen as often as mine do? I thought it was cute the first couple of times, and then I quickly realized that young children “helping” in the kitchen are about as beneficial as a small hurricane. I got tired of blanching in abject terror when I heard little voices say “Can we help, Mommy?”, so I finally came up with a few ground rules for our house to keep meal prep as organized (and fun!) as possible.
- Before anything else, my kids know that a good hand scrubbing is required to help with a meal! Nothing is grosser than a kid trying to handle food with grimy hands and fingernails. I love Foaming Hand Wash because the foam means my kids are more likely to get the soap in all their little crevices. I’ve seen the way they “scrub” with other soaps and it just doesn’t cut it for me.
- Create a schedule for who helps when. In our house, each kid has their own special day according to birth order (Liam’s is Monday, Toby’s Tuesday, Juliet Wednesday, etc). When it’s Liam’s day, he says all the family prayers, gets to choose his seat at the table (by Dad, always) and he gets to help with dinner. While I do allow swapping every now and again if both parties are in agreement, sticking with this schedule largely prevents a TON of fighting!
- Limit the helpers to 1 or 2 kids. This is easy when we follow the above step but if I ever let more than one child help at a time, things escalate quickly. It just gets crazy with 3 or more and there’s fighting and pushing and potential concussions as kids yank stools out from under each other. It’s legit scary, yo. So for safety’s (and sanity’s) sake, 2 helpers max.
- Be aware (or better yet, create a list) of what each child can do independently. I know that all my kids under age 8 need direct supervision with a sharp knife, the stove and oven. The older kids can do some of these more dangerous tasks with me in the room, but not necessarily hovering. And while it can be tempting to do everything for a child, the dangers are relatively small (a little finger cut or burn) and experience is a great teacher. I’m the biggest control freak in the world but the more I let them do alone, the faster they learn!Even the smallest of kids can help out in the kitchen, and prep work is the best place to start. Mimi (age 2) loves mixing ingredients, peeling boiled eggs, cutting soft foods with a dull knife and even cracking eggs (into a separate bowl so it’s easy to pick out shells). It’s amazing how excited and happy they are to do the smallest jobs!
Even with all these guidelines, I’m still not great at keeping my cool when kids are underfoot. So sometimes I set aside specific, quiet times during the day when they can help out in the kitchen, rather than at 5:27 when everyone’s starving and melting down and I’m hustling to get dinner on the table. Baking a Sunday afternoon treat with my girls or letting Finn help chop vegetables during the babies’ nap time seem to work much better and allow us to have a really good time together.
So how do you guys handle helping in the kitchen? Are your kids actually helpful or more of a hindrance?