The second kids get home from school, they have three priorities. The first is to ditch the backpack, the second is to change into comfy clothes, and the third is to ask you: “So, what’s for dinner?” Aside from simply loving food, kids really do enjoy dinner time. It is a chance to focus on whatever the day’s adventures were, and to experience all of the day’s high points again with the family you love around the dinner table.
Younger children who haven’t started school yet watch you or their caretaker pad around the kitchen all day. So whether you arrive home from work and start cooking right away or start prepping for dinner early, their eyes are on you, full of anticipation for the meal ahead. While sitting down to dinner is always a great thing for you and your family, you can up the quality time (and cut the work in half) by letting the kids get involved in the kitchen. And even if you don’t think they are ready for chopping vegetables or standing near the stove, there are plenty of odd jobs they can do to lend a really helpful hand in the kitchen.
The key to having a collaborative cooking session with the kids is to give them age-appropriate jobs. If you task them with things you know they can accomplish, it will build their confidence in the kitchen and will allow them to expand their “jobs” as they grow. Not only does this mean that they will get to learn more about the food they eat, it will give you and your little ones quality time together they otherwise may have spent in front of the TV!
Fetch the Food
Setting out all of the ingredients is a big help and a great learning opportunity for your kids. Ask younger kids around 3 or 4 years old to grab simple, familiar ingredients like fruits and vegetables. Older kids around 5 or so can be asked to find ingredients like milk, butter, and anything with a label. You’ll have an extra pair of helpful hands and will be reinforcing early reading comprehension.
Read the Recipes
For a child learning how to read, sounding out the words on a recipe card can really help them hone their skills. Ask them to not only read out the list of ingredients, but break it down sentence by sentence for the directions. The act of physically showing them the action connected to the words they just read will help them develop a better understanding of the new vocabulary they are learning.
This article was originally published November 7, 2014