The other day, I saw a blog post featuring several creative ideas to keep your kids busy while you make dinner. There were lots of grateful comments from desperate moms that I think lots of us can identify with. Then there were a few of the “well, why don’t you welcome your child into the kitchen with you?” comments with an “if only you were a loving and kind mother who always cooked with your child like I do” vibe.
That kind of judgement and negativity gets no one anywhere.
It’s no secret that I spend a lot of time in the kitchen with my kids. Since the beginning, Sophie has been in the kitchen with me. During her most difficult phases of babyhood, she was usually calm in the kitchen, whether that was strapped to my chest in a carrier while I diced veggies or sitting in a bumbo or high chair close by.
I couldn’t have asked for a better kitchen buddy in Sophie. She has LOTS of interest in the kitchen, and gets really stressed out by mess from a sensory standpoint, so she is remarkably obedient, careful, and adept at cooking with me in the kitchen. There are few things she loves more than pulling up a chair to the counter to help me mix up anything from veggies to soup to cookies, and can identify over 3 dozen types of produce (including cilantro, basil, and parsley) by sight. Although cooking with her isn’t the fastest thing, it’s usually a pretty pleasant thing.
Enter: child two. Milo has some interest in the helping and cooking. He also has a flighty attention span and almost no listening skills in the kitchen. He’ll fling a cup of oats across the kitchen in 2 seconds and try to drink the vanilla when you’re reaching for a measuring spoon. He’ll drop eggs on the floor one by one to watch them explode and add a little dish soap to your muffin batter.
All that to say I GET IT.
Cooking with kids isn’t always an idyllic experience, where you’re all pleasantly assembling a vegetable soufflé from the organic vegetables you’ve cultivated from heirloom seeds in your backyard. In fact, it’s never that way at our house (we don’t have a garden, and very few of our kitchen experiences are idyllic). Kids get in the way. Surprise ingredients are added to your meal. Messes are made. It takes longer.
Still, I’ve found that inviting my kids into the kitchen with me is sometimes just plain easier than trying to shoo everyone out of it every three seconds while I throw dinner together. Getting them involved helps them have some investment in the meal (even if it’s just practicing seeing, touching, or tasting new foods). It’s also just a great way to eat up some time during long afternoons when the last few hours till daddy comes home feel like seventeen hours.
Here are a few of the ways I’ve gotten my kids involved in the kitchen: