16 Ways Your Kids Can Help You Cook Without Making You Crazy
My bratty, pre-kids mentality: Kids love helping in the kitchen! If you make them part of the process, they'll have more interest in eating new foods! Make grocery shopping a game where they learn about colors and textures! Tell them that broccoli is just a little tree!
My real-life-with-kids mentality: Survive, soldiers. SURVIVE.
Perhaps the day will come when my boys (almost 4 and 6) won't eye-murder me if green is on their plates. Or that we'll be able to make it through Target without a 9am popcorn fix. Or that when I say, "Who wants to help me with dinner?!" in my best Disney princess sing-song-y voice, they're suddenly deaf. I believe the day will come when food isn't a fight.
Until then, I have sixteen real tips from a real mom on how your kids can help in the kitchen without making you crazy. I have this list on my fridge because, thanks to Mom Brain, I will forget All the Things unless they're written down... assuming I don't lose the paper I wrote it on. Real life, y'all.
- Press the buttons on the microwave.
- Roll out/knead/crimp pizza dough. We have homemade pizza every weekend, so this one gets a lot of practice.
- Fill pots with water.
- Wash produce with a big bowl of water and a towel.
- Pour liquid ingredients from a pitcher into a LARGE pot or bowl, preferably close to a sink. Maybe even inside the sink. I'm not insane.
- Sift dry ingredients.
- Mash foods (potatoes, avocado, etc.). Also, please don't assume they actually eat the potato or avocado because again... nonsense.
- Dump seasonings into pots and pans.
- Add a pinch of salt to something. I'll say, "I need your pinching fingers!" and Sam either thinks that's hilarious or looks at me like he's seventeen and annoyed.
- Listen for the timer to go off.
- Sprinkle cheese on pizza, burritos, pasta, etc.
- Set and clear the table. Or at least parts of it. Maybe one plate. Pick your battles.
- Unwrap frozen baked goods. We have a lot of already-baked stuff packed away in the freezer, all wrapped individually in plastic wrap. Sam has atrocious fine motor skills, so it's good practice for him to not go through life like he's Edward Scissorhands.
- Put frozen cookie dough balls on a sheet pan to bake.
- Rinse/cook rice in the rice cooker. My husband is Japanese, so rice is as natural to our lives as breathing. The boys will rinse the rice, help me fill the water to the right line, and press the Start button. P.S. It helps with reading, too. Not that everything has to; just a bonus lazy move.
I don't pretend that I do all of these all the time because I absolutely do not. But I like knowing that we can and sometimes do. Since I'm not an idiot, there's no grand end game of my kids suddenly wanting heirloom salads; I just want them to be part of life in this house. If listening for the oven timer doesn't make them eat the chicken inside it, no big thing. Zero expectations, you guys. That way, if they magically get through a meal without screaming or throwing beans at me, I can celebrate. Until they freak out five minutes later about having to take a bath. Which they do every night. IT'S NOT LIKE BATHTIME IS A SURPRISE, PEOPLE.
For the love.