Busy mother’s know how easy it is to do everything themselves and keep out the “help.” How many mother’s use their dinnertime prep to allow their children to sit in front of the television?
I think everyone should know how to cook. Cooking is a life skill that is essential to thriving. By learning to cook a healthy, balanced meal, a person can keep his or her body nourished. If one is prone to buy prepared food or restaurant food, cooking will save money as well. Many also find cooking to be a creative outlet and relieve the stresses of life.
Cooking is also an important for ministering tool. Food blesses people in a way little else can. When I was an undergrad taking a cooking an meal management class, a young man was in my class. He did not know a thing about cooking, but wanted to learn so he could help our his wife someday. I loved that sacrificial perspective. And think more people who find themselves uneasy in the kitchen, need to humble themselves and learn how to be more comfortable in the kitchen simply to enhance ministry opportunities.
I believe everyone is able to learn to cook. Cooking does not have to be of gourmet caliber. I am afraid the television has ruined our standards of what makes a fine meal. If one can learn to create a delicious plate of vegetables and meat, cooking has happened. In fact, simple meals are preferred by most of the population. People find such comfort it an unintimidating bowl of chicken and rice.
Baking is a little more complicated in my opinion because it involves a bit more chemistry than cooking, but baking is usually the preference of children’s kitchen activities. Children love to mix flours and powders. They love to sample the interesting ingredients. Children especially love to get messy, gooey, and sticky as they touch dough and powders.
So, as a busy mother, how am I inspiring my children to enjoy cooking and baking?
- Cultivate habits of keeping children close while working in the kitchen. Children need to know they have a place beside mother in the kitchen. They learn that as infants strapped to their mother’s chest while she works. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen while they hang on mother’s pant leg while she scurries to make supper. Children learn to have a place in the kitchen as they pull up a stool and stir ingredients into a bowl. The kitchen becomes connected to warmth, comfort, and home very quickly to a child who spends his or her time beside mother there, day after day.
- Allow time to include children in meal prep and baking. Kitchen work will move at a slower pace if children are involved. I confess it is not convenient to have children underfoot while I work in the kitchen, but the point in having children was not for convenience. If I allow a little extra time by starting dinner early or give myself grace to eat a little later, I can include the little dears into the cooking experience.
- Learn to cherish the messes made by little “helping” hands. If I embrace the blessing of flour on the floor, sticky fingers being licked, eggshells in the cookies, and splatters around the pot I find joy in my heart instead of frustration as I work alongside my little ones in the kitchen. It is all a matter of what I choose to see as beautiful in that moment.
- Let them enjoy have choices of what they bake and cook. All of my children have favorite foods. If I am making one of those particular things, I will often ask if they want to help me. For Thanksgiving, each child gets to make his or her favorite pie. For Christmas, I let the children choose a couple cookies to help me bake for our neighbors. As I am menu planning for the week or the month, I will often ask the children for meal ideas and they can help me cook the meals they choose.
- Be around to guide, but don’t micromanage. As my children get older, they are more and more independent in the kitchen. My older children can make lunch on days I have no time…scrambled eggs, noodles, sandwiches, and toast are a few easy lunch items they put together. I will never forget the blessing it was one morning a couple months ago to wake up to the smell of eggs toast, and hot coffee made independently, and unprompted by my three girls! Micromanaging my kitchen would make my children feel as though they have no place there. So, I am careful to say “yes” as often as possible to their kitchen endeavors. I wan them to feel that it is their kitchen too!
- Show cleanup is part of cooking. Cleanup is usually the least fun portion of cooking for both adults and children. I like to teach my children to clean as they go. It really helps not have a mountain of work after the food has been cooked. When they are very young, I help them out. I do not want the cleanup to discourage them from working in the kitchen. But as a child is more capable, I insist the cleanup be done by her. I so not want to cultivate habits of leaving messes for others, in the kitchen or anywhere else.
- Utilize, don’t stifle a child’s natural curiosity in the kitchen. Children have a natural interest in tastes, smells, and textures of what is found in the kitchen. I am not saying I want my children burying their hands in my container of flour, but I do my best to allow them to use their senses while they cook. To enjoy and learn, it is essential that they know the ingredients they are using, so yes, there is a lot of tasting, smelling, and touching going on as we cook!
- Create a kitchen environment for each child’s best experience. I enjoy listening to classical harp music while cooking, but I have a daughter who prefers stories, and a son who prefers toddler songs. I allow the child helping me to have his or her pick of listening material or conversation with mom while cooking or baking. I think it helps each child take ownership of the kitchen and have a sense of belonging while he or she works.
- Keep the cooking to one child at a time. I have mistakenly included too many children at once in my cooking work. Then I cannot remember if the baking powder was added in, or if both scoops of sugar were included… It messes things up a bit. Our kitchen is also a small one and there isn’t room for many people in it at once. We often take turns in our house, just to keep the food turning out alright. One child can help with vegetables for dinner and another prep meat for roasting. It can be divided up easily and in shifts. Oh the joy each child takes when “their” dish is enjoyed at dinner.
- Purpose to teach children to make age-appropriate dishes. When a child is at a certain maturity, he or she can be taught to use knives, turn on the stove, put cookies into the oven, and such. Only a mother will know when each of her children is ready to move on to the next step.