Loaves and Dishes

Wendi Spraker

Food and kids. Has there ever been a more frustrating combination in history? On the one hand you have kids who eat everything in sight and you worry about the eventual size of their mid-section. On the other hand you have kids who won’t touch a bite of anything set before them and you worry about – well, you worry about everything!

As an old mom who has spent the last 27 years raising kids I’ll only say a couple of things about kids and eating. 1. You are doing the best you can and often struggling over who eats what at dinner isn’t worth it. 2. Kids will definitely eat something when they become hungry. 3. If your children grow up seeing you eat balanced healthy meals day after day, eventually, they will too. (It might take a very long time, but I promise, eventually, it will happen).

All of that said to say, “Hey mom and dad, hang in there. You aren’t alone. You are doing your best. Just keep up the good work”.

One thing you can do for tiny appetites is to allow your kids to help in the kitchen. I know. I know. It is sometimes a lot of extra work for you to allow them to even be in the kitchen while you are trying to put a decent dinner on the table. However, here are at least six reasons to encourage little helping hands.

1. Cooking brings families together. Cooking time spent together allows kids to participate in something bigger than themselves. While cooking dinner, the child is responsible for important tasks that require your trust. This mutual trust that extends farther than the parent child relationship sets a foundation that will last a lifetime. Besides, sometimes revealing conversations about school, friends and activities come up while preparing supper.

2. Cooking builds self-esteem. Self-esteem doesn’t come from participation ribbons and cheers for everyone. Self-esteem is built by learning to depend on oneself. A child who masters even the simplest tasks in the kitchen (toasting the bread for dinner for the entire family or putting the cookies on the baking sheet) has a new tool in their tool belt that they can feel proud of and you, as the parent, can too.

3. Cooking is an excellent way to teach math. Cooking is all about adding, subtracting and fractions. A child who can SEE that 1/4 cup of water goes into a 1 cup measure four times has learned an important concept. There are many other examples!

4. Cooking is an excellent way to help children learn to follow instructions. Often times, in cooking, it is very important to follow the instructions exactly. For example, if the recipe says to add the wet ingredients to the dry then that is exactly what you must do, not the reverse. A child who learns to follow instructions to the letter has certainly learned an important life lesson.

5. Cooking helps children want to try the cooked items. The child who has helped stir the green beans, mound up the meatloaf and cut the lettuce for the salad is going to be many times more likely to be willing to try a bite of those things. Especially when she sees mom and dad enjoying their dinner.

6. Cooking is an important life skill. As the writer of a cooking website, I promise you, there are many people in the world who do not know the most basic things about cooking. By allowing your child to help in the kitchen, he is learning important life skills that will carry through to adulthood. My own 29-year-old son always wanted to help in the kitchen and I let him. By the time he was 12, he was cooking complete meals for the family with only a few directional hints from me. (I worked evenings from home in an office just off the kitchen and could only shout a few instructions from my office into the kitchen to help him – but he did great). He finds a lot of pride now in being able to cook delicious dinners for his family.

It’s never fun to see someone else do all of the “fun” jobs. So, the next time that your little one wants to measure out the dry ingredients and you consider the mess, I encourage you to “think long”. Sure, cleaning up spilled flour is NO FUN, but when your son steps out into life and knows how to cook a healthy homemade dinner for himself, won’t you be proud? Yes you will. That pride starts with spilled flour.

Do you have any tips and hints for kids helping in the kitchen? How about tips for “how to get kids to eat their dinner?”. If so, I invite you to drop me a line at wendi@loavesanddishes.net You can always find me at my website www.loavesanddishes.net


Wendi Spraker

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