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Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Guest Post: Kathleen Thomas

Have a Family Night and Learn to Cook Together

Article submitted by Kathleen Thomas on behalf of Primrose Schools

Five Ways to Reclaim Family Fun in the Kitchen

With every family in short supply of time in general---let alone quality time together---it becomes critical to handle "must do" family tasks together. Though it may seem faster to cook while your preschooler is parked in front of the tube, in the long run it's really much better to use a kitchen as a classroom and a place to connect and prepare the family meal together. What's more, it makes sense for your budget's bottom line, your waist line, and your family time to keep meal time at home, and not at the restaurant, all things not always taught in child care. As long as you keep safety first and do your best to not stress out about little messes, cooking can be transformed into memorable family time, even for the smallest members of your brood.
Here are 5 ideas to make kitchen time into family time.

  1. Keep it clean! Do a family handwash. You and your helper can create a sweet ritual of handwashing together before cooking time begins. Talk about food safety in age-appropriate terms, or just sing a handwashing or other silly song together. If your recipe calls for washing any produce, don't dry your hands after handwashing. Just segue into washing the veggies together. Use this time to also talk about safety rules, like not touching hot things or sharp implements. Remember to keep the pan handles turned in so no one accidentally spills a boiling pot.
  2. Find the teachable moment. Measuring and counting are critical to food preparation. Let your helper set up your kitchen like they do on the cooking shows: Measure ingredients into little bowls before the cooking begins. You can count the bowls or the pinches or the teaspoons if there's time. Teach time management by asking your youngster to set the table while you do the sautéing or other dangerous task.
  3. Modify tasks as needed. Children develop critical skills step by step. Younger kids might just be counting teaspoons of butter, but older kids might be ready to cut veggies with a dull spreader or a plastic knife. If your helper is reading age, make her or him in charge of reading the recipe and gathering all the ingredients. Very little ones can hold the recipe book or pretend to mix in a bowl while you do the "grown-up only" tasks of preparing the meal.
  4. Talk about nutrition! You can have age-appropriate conversations about nutrition with any child. Talk with younger kids about why the salad has so many colors, or why you've paired the chicken with veggies. Older kids can always use a talk about why they aren't allowed to snack during meal prep time, or the value of filling up on the meatloaf before diving too deeply into those mashed potatoes.
  5. Rave about cooperation. Did mom and sis prepare the meal? Maybe dad and little brother are on kitchen duty afterward. Talk with your kids about how everyone in the home is responsible for making it successful, and that sharing cleanup time is a critical part of the meal ritual too.

Thank you Kathleen for your wonderful post…family time is truly so crucial, and one of the best times to get it in is in the kitchen and around the dinner table! –Judy :)

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