Getting kids interested in helping with dinner can be a struggle. There are plenty of reasons why kids should help us out in the kitchen, but getting them involved isn’t always easy. Having the kids lend a hand with meal prep, is great bonding time, plus who couldn’t use an extra hand in the kitchen?
It’s not all about efficiency, there are other benefits of healthy cooking too! Kids who learn how to cook tend to eat healthier meals, increase their vegetable intake, and they’re less picky with the meals they’re involved in making (it’s like magic!). Wondering what you can do to get your kids excited about cooking without making dinner take forever? Luckily, we’ve come up with a few tried-and-true ways kids can help with dinner, and you can include kids of all ages.
1. Choose the menu together. An easy first step is to plan out the family’s weekly menu as a team. A typical weekly plan starts on Sunday and involves making a list of the meals you’ll eat for each day of the week, the ingredients to go with each meal, and shopping to have it all ready in the home. Shopping together is a great opportunity to teach kids about nutrition as they place ingredients in the cart. If you prefer to skip the store, you can shop online with with Terra’s Kitchen, where you can plan your meals and get recipes shipped to your house weekly, with easy to follow directions and pre-measured ingredients. We recently released a Shrimp, Bacon, and Polenta dish that is perfect for family meals, and the kids will never notice the zucchini hidden inside.
2. Prep the ingredients for cooking. Cooking can get complicated for kids depending on their age and type of meal, so keep in mind what they can and cannot do safely when assigning tasks. If you’re making a one-pan meal, like our Sheet Pan Roasted Chicken with Lemon-Arugula Potato Salad, you could have them help spread out the ingredients on the pan before putting it in the oven. Salad dressing is simple, replaceable if messed up, and a perfect time for a science lesson on mixing oil and water. (J. Kenji López-Alt is a chef who approaches food from a science perspective that you and your kids may be interested in.) You can also involve kids with things other than dinner - try starting small with snacks like hummus or Easy Fancy Donuts.
3. Set the table. Kids can express their creativity while you cook by setting the table. Try making DIY Placemats or Decorative Flowers from Homework. These projects are loads of fun and look great, too! All you need is a little cardboard and colorful tape to make a decorated placemat at home. Another way to allow kids to design dinner is through music. Let them choose the radio station or a dinner playlist. They’ll be happy to listen to their favorite songs and you will get a chance to see what they choose and why (this is a great conversation starter for dinner!). If you’ve got a mini waiter or waitress at home, they can also take orders and pour the drinks for the family meal.
4. Clean as a team. After you’re done eating, you can keep bonding with a clean up session. This is a good opportunity to talk to the kids about recycling, composting, and food waste - all very important for a healthy environment. Give the kids a dishcloth and they can dry the pots and pans as you wash. Or they can gather up the leftovers (if there are any!) and put them back in the fridge. We like using TK containers for leftovers which is a great lesson in reusing before recycling!
Always remember to keep cooking simple with the kids, starting with prepped ingredients helps! If you don’t know where to start, try a meal delivery service like Terra's Kitchen; our menu is always changing and we add new meals weekly to make meal planning easy. Terra’s Kitchen is all about bringing family time back to the dinner table. Start your first week today.