As children, we were encouraged to do our bit around the house and all chores were a collective effort. This, thankfully included helping out in the kitchen, which I much preferred over hanging and folding the washing. From a young age, I recall pulling up my little wooden stool and leaning as far over the kitchen sink as I possibly could to make sure the carrot peels made it in. We were taught to wash the dishes and take out the organic waste. I have to say that even my friends who visited were roped into this way of life during their stays. I’m certain my best friend learnt how to wash dishes without the help of a dishwasher at my house, but know that no efforts in the kitchen ever went unappreciated.
25 years later, and it is now my turn to share these childhood experiences with the next generation. We all know that family life is chaotic at the best of times, and there’s no way around that. I have realised over the past 4 years, that I just have to embrace the chaos, and that things like cooking and being creative in the kitchen are now a luxury I can no longer lavish and enjoy in my own time or on my own schedule. As a result of this change in my life, my girls and I have tried out a number of recipes of varying difficulty together. There are a good handful that I think you will find easy, fun and nutritious. So, this has prompted me to start a series titled ‘Kitchen Playdates’. Why not make it a date, even invite their friends over, and all get creative in the kitchen?
Why? Well, cooking can give kids a wonderful sense of accomplishment. Welcoming kids into your kitchen is a great way to let them experience the pride of creation, and it’s so wonderful to watch them see and enjoy the fruits of their own labours. Children will learn how to share, measure, and even read recipes, all while you are spending quality time with them. Giving your children some freedom in the kitchen, allows them to exude confidence and you are also giving them the gift of some very useful life skills. I promise they will thank you for it.
So, how young is too young? Well, I honestly don’t think you can ever be too young to be in the kitchen. My 18 month old is often in the kitchen, playing with wooden utensils, pretending to chop and stir right alongside us. At 4 years old, my eldest can now wash, chop, stir, pour and measure, and is more help to me than she is probably even aware of. There is always something a child can do to assist and learn in the kitchen, and let’s face it, kids find being in the kitchen so much fun! So, my girls and I have put together some of our handiest hints for you to plan you own Kitchen Playdates.
Tips on getting started:
- Wash.This is a pretty obvious one, but a lot of the time, children need to be reminded to wash their hands before handling food, so I always give a little spiel on this before we start.
- Gear up. I found that getting my daughters their own apron makes them feel more a part of the entire process. A worthy investment.
- Personal prepping. Make sure they roll up sleeves and long hair is better tied back.
- Safety. A reminder on safety in the kitchen is a must. Some things to remember here are: Power outlets should not be touched. Cords should be neatly rolled or tied up and not near any water. Blenders and food processor blades are sharp at the bottom of the cup. Stove tops and ovens are usually always hot. Knives should only be touched on instruction from and under the supervision of an adult.
- Garbage Bowl. Keep a large bowl handy on the bench for garbage. This is an easy way to keep unwanted, messy scraps and liquid drips off the floor. The scraps are easily disposed of afterwards, when you have finished with the food preparation side of things. This also encourages children to tidy as they work, so they’re not leaving random scraps all over the work bench.
- Cutting Board. A wet towel under your cutting board will reduce slippage when little hands are cutting, slicing or dicing.
- Make age appropriate choices. Divide up appropriate tasks according to the ability of each child, and be sure to assign the right tools for little hands.
- Clean like you mean it. I find that teaching the children to clean up as you go makes things so much easier. You’re not left with a daunting pile at the end when everyone is tired and distracted. I’m very thankful to my Mum for this tip.
- Have some distracting snacks ready. Kids almost always get impatient and want to eat their creations right away… Well at least my 4 year old does.
- Reset your adult time clock. This one takes a bit of practice, I am still working on it to be honest. Make sure you add extra time to avoid feeling the pressure to get the meal out on time, as we all know, things take longer when little hands are involved.
- Don’t worry about the mess. Keep in mind these playdates are meant to be low-stress and lots of fun. Let loose a little and enjoy it!
Getting creative in the kitchen with the children really is a win/win. You will find that children are not so picky when it comes to having to eat their own food creations, and that the activity itself gives them a greater sense of ownership over what goes into their bodies. After all, cooking and enjoying food is a celebration of all the good things we have to be thankful for, and this includes our children.
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Over and Out.