I titled this show How To Get Kids To Help In The Kitchen but for us Self Reliant types things that wind up in the kitchen start in the garden. So really this is a post about how to get kids to help with food wherever it happens to be at the moment; we’ll talk mostly about the kitchen but there is a little gardening thrown in.
The first thing you need to think about when it comes to the kitchen or garden is safety and age appropriate activities. Some days will be all about safety and other times you’ll just need to point a few things out, but safety should always be on your mind and discussion about it should flow freely in the beginning of a project and during, and in that way you can teach your children safety comes first.
What Does Kids Helping In the Kitchen Mean For You?
Well, it depends. It depends on the age of your kids, your patience levels, your teaching ability/methods and your child.
Obviously a toddler is going to be a handful in the kitchen, and an infant might sleep in your arms the entire time. Whereas a teenager is going to be a huge help if they enjoy being in the kitchen. The thing to think about if you have young children is sowing the seeds for the future. Will there be times you just need to cook dinner quickly without interruptions? Sure. However, you should realize every time you take the time to acclimate you child to growing, cooking or preserving food you are setting yourself and them up for success later.
Your Attitude and Patience
This goes without saying, but if you’re like me you might appreciate a gentle reminder or even a nudge. Children are going to be messy in the kitchen and the younger they start the messier it’s gonna be. However, I’m here to tell you, as a mom of three boys, the stage passes and you realize in the end that you can deal with messes better than you ever thought you could. For me this stage taught me a lot about how I organize things and how much extra work I did for little things that didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. So start slow, take a deep breath and enjoy your children in the kitchen--mess and all.
Turn Turn The Kitchen Into A Classroom
As your kids get older you come up with many different science and math lessons from cooking. Then if you’re a canner you’ve got a several major science lessons there are well. You might find yourself soaking up the information and become better at your craft. I know I have over the years with teaching my boys.
Why Should Kids Help In The Kitchen?
- Kitchen Safety--I mentioned this above but wanted to put it here too. Kids need to know about safety in the kitchen as soon as they are able to understand.
- Time Spent Together--We bond over food. It’s what we do as humans. Spend bonding time with your children and teach them to eat whole nutritious food.
- Less Time Spent On Learning Later--The more time you spend with kids in the kitchen the less friction there will be later on in life. If they grow up doing growing, cooking and preserving they will always have the knowledge and probably always put some that knowledge into practice.
- Ownership--When kids cook they take more ownership of the food they make and are more likely to try new thing and/or eat things they might not like otherwise.
- Establish Procedures --If you establish procedures they will become second nature and your house will run smoother as your children grow up and are able to help more.
- Nutrition--You’ll be able to teach your kids about good nutrition and possibly keep them away from junk food.
- Preparedness--If you are canning or dehydrating with your kids you are teaching them how to be prepared for harder time or whatever comes their way.
- Tradition--Growing, cooking and preserving food are time honored traditions that help connect the generations.
- Saving Money--Growing, cooking and preserving your own organic food saves a ton of money. So you can teach the math aspect of this concept along with giving them the skill to carry these practices into their adult life and give them an advantage.
At What Age Should They Be Doing What?
Birth to 1 Year Of Age
Wearing/Holding Baby--keeping your baby close to you is beneficial for a lot of reasons, but keeping them close in the kitchen gets them used to smells and sounds they'll encounter.
2-5 Years Of Age
Carry seed packets.
Dig holes for seeds.
Start learning how to pull weeds (with supervision).
Start learning to identify insects.
Wash produce --take stems off, separate different varieties.
Stir batter or other ingredients together on a counter.
Help wash dishes--plastics and silverware.
Organize lower cabinet spaces.
Wipe counters with natural cleaner.
Help set the table.
Count and measure produce
Fetch rings and lids
6-10 Years Of Age
Everything from above.
Mix and check compost.
Pull weeds unsupervised.
Start learning how to water.
Learn what to look for when insects invade.
Learn how to prune and cull different plants.
Identify plants by their leaves.
Start learning about cooking in an oven--different temperatures
Measure out ingredients.
Start a grocery list.
Plan out dinners the night before and prep ingredients--defrost meat or mix something to marinade.
Help with menu planning.
Wash dishes by hand.
Understand how to prep meat and keep surfaces clean.
Make coffee, tea and cold drinks like lemonade.
Set the table.
Store leftovers correctly.
Learn the ingredients to basic recipes like Mac and Cheese.
Start to learn what preservation method is best for each food.
Place food in an organized method into food storage or pantry.
Determine the amount of jars to be used in canning.
Recognize that there are two different canning methods--even if they are still not sure which one is which
Realize canning has a procedure that needs to be taken seriously--even if they are still not sure what it is.
Recognize the different sizes of jars and be able to convert volume measurements--example 2 pints = 1 quart.
Recognize jars come in different volume sizes and mouth sizes.
12-18 Years Of Age
Everything from above
Start seeds indoors.
Harden off seedlings.
Prep flower beds.
Plan out a section of garden and grow their own food.
Know what foods are native to your area.--for growing or foraging.
Use appliances like mixer and food processor safely.
Cook on a stovetop (even gas).
Cook an entire meal from scratch including things like bone broth and bread.
Plan out a week’s worth of meals.
Meal plan and then grocery shop within budget.
Understand and be able to compensate for people in the family who need to watch their intake of certain foods--sugar, gluten, carbs etc.
Understand the difference between dehydrating, fermenting, and canning.
Understand which foods need to be pressure canned and which ones can be water bath canned.
Understand how to store different foods, which foods can be repackaged or processed to be placed into storage.
Be able to lay out a plan on how much to grow or buy to feed your family for one year.
How To Get Them To Help
When they're little it won’t be a problem - all you’ll need to do is ask them. When they get a little older they might have not be as eager. It goes back to setting up a routine and them understanding that they are not helping you per se, they are helping their family and in turn helping themselves. If all else fails going on strike has been known to work. After they have had their fill of sandwiches or scrambled eggs and they know the only way to get something more for dinner is to cook it they will be ready and willing to learn.
Warning: this might take longer than you think--a few weeks (possibly months) but in my experience I’ve seen it work every time.
Do your kids help in the kitchen? What is your favorite meal to cook together?