Everyone Wins When Kids are Comfortable in the Kitchen

I’m bored! Have some of you parents heard that from you children this summer? Maybe not at the onset, but by mid-July, mine have expressed more times than a few that they’re searching for something to do. By now, they recall that if they utter this phrase around a parent, it’s going to be met with a list of chores.

The list of chores to ease boredom doesn’t seem to go over well. Recently, I’ve been using the creativity of the kitchen to teach them some skills. We’ve chopped, diced, julienned, mashed, peeled, pressed (garlic), mixed, sautéed and served. Not all at once though.

Keeping kids interested in where their food comes from and how its prepared is a key way to instill healthy habits that last a lifetime. Your kids aren’t going to go the extra mile to boil and mash potatoes if they can buy them pre-made. They also aren’t going to reap the benefits of organic, fresh foods.

Our advice: start small. Work on introducing new kitchen tools – even one task per meal at a time. In the beginning, their help may seem insignificant in making a recipe of 20-some steps, but it adds up quickly. Even if they do one-third of the work, it eases your tasks. You can also set them to work washing dishes and packaging leftovers. It can make time in the kitchen --especially for those of you who aren’t as passionate about cooking or pressed for time -- actually enjoyable.

When it comes to learning new tools, have fruits and vegetables on hand to practice skills. Peeling (because the blade is more dull) is a perfect first task (use lengthier veggies like cucumbers versus fruits like apples), followed by learning to use a pairing knife. Shredding cheese (and you most definitely should to avoid toxins in the form of anti-fungals applied to most store-bought shredded cheese to keep the cheese from sticking together) is also a good task for starters.

To mix it up in the kitchen and provide both parents and kids with some new inspiration, we’ve been into Blue Apron as of late. We get a weekly delivery with all the ingredients to make two meals to serve a family of four. It’s been a solid learning tool for my kids and takes away all of the ingredient and tool searches through your cupboards and fridge and everything is pre-measured. We also typically have leftovers, so learning to package those after a meal – in frego, of course -- has been a huge help.

However you prep, make and store your meals, and clean up after -- kitchen time allows you to teach patience and rewards. Summer is a perfect time to test out these efforts. Get your kids into the kitchen and alleviate boredom, create a sous-chef for you and have everyone at the table enjoying their meal all the more!

Juhi Gupta