If you know even the slightest thing about me, you know that I am passionate about my time in the kitchen with my kids. For so very many reasons. Now, you may think, of course you are, you love to cook. Touché. Sort of.
Yes, I do love to cook. But if you want the full truth I love to cook alone the very most. I can be creative, thoughtful, organized, and CLEAN. My perfect afternoon would quite possibly consist of me in my kitchen with a giant latte, fully stocked fridge, a free mind and all the time in the world to play around with recipe ideas; tunes cranked too, of course.
But for now, I’ll keep dreaming, because I’ve got these three little kiddos that make it pretty impossible. You know the feeling. They follow you…to the bathroom. The laundry room. In the shower. And to the kitchen, too. That’s how our family cooking all started. If ya can’t beat em, join em, I suppose! I have to tell you…it is one of the best things I’ve done in my short life of parenthood, for a million reasons. But for now, here are 5.
- It is time spent together. From the earliest age, I can remember, my oldest daughter would hang on me each and every time I tried to prepare a meal. No matter if I needed 5 minutes to get breakfast warmed up, or 45 minutes to get dinner on the table, she was there. Needing one thing or another. Turns out, she didn’t need a single thing other than ME. She wanted to be with me and share in what I was doing, to be a part of it. So I started to let her join me with small things, like washing vegetables or stirring. It didn’t matter what she was doing, what mattered is that we were doing it together. Now, as my two older ones are growing, I’m finding that being in the kitchen with them means talking. About our days, what’s coming up, how we are feeling. While this certainly isn’t the same as sitting down one on one and giving undivided attention, it is communicating in such an unforced, organic way, and I absolutely love it.
- They are learning life skills. Often times, when we have young kids, it is so easy to think you’ll teach them that when they are older. Or to think they are too young to appreciate that now. But with regard to the kitchen, that couldn’t be less true. It is NEVER too early to get them started. Yes, learning to cook is something that will carry them far into their future. But the helping out, contributing and working for what we want factors that come along with cooking are lessons that will soak in and will also take them so very far in life, even as adolescents. Not to mention the fact that they will feel a sense of ownership and accomplishment, which is so great for their confidence.
- They are more likely to experiment with food. I can honestly say that my kids are WAY more inclined to enjoy eating something that they’ve helped prepare. First off, when we cook, we taste as we go. This requires them to try new things or things they may not typically care for. Also, allowing them to help gives them a sense of ownership and pride, which will set the food they’ve prepared in such a positive light. They go into the meal getting to enjoy what they’ve created vs. having to try what I’ve created. Perspective.
- They are helpful. Now, at a young age, by help, I don’t mean it made my job easier. I can’t tell you how many spills, dumps and straight up control-battles we’ve had, especially in that 2 to 3-year-old age range. I’m literally sweating just thinking about it. But now, my oldest is 7 and my middle is 5. While that is still so very young, they ARE a huge help. My daughter makes an egg bake for us every week and whips up a killer ranch dressing. And my son loves to prepare roasted vegetables and chop up a salad. Yes, things still get super messy when we are all in there together, but they are learning to clean up after themselves, too. The goal, really, is that in 3 to 5 years I will be sitting on the sofa, taking a snooze while my kids prepare an entire meal for the family without even needing me in the same room. I wonder if they’ll serve coffee as well.
- We have fun. This one in itself is really enough for me. We jam out and dance, get messy and creative and let everything else go. And we do it all, together. My hope is that my kids look back and cherish this time together as much as I do; it’s absolutely priceless to me.