When you’re a “real-food” family, so much of your time and money centers around food.
That’s why we like to make the kitchen run efficiently and make that grocery budget work extra hard. But there’s another area that provides a huge return on investment in the kitchen – teaching kids kitchen jobs.
From a very early age, kids can be involved in the activity in the kitchen. Whether they’re making simple stove-popped popcorn, emptying the dishwasher or just getting themselves an easy snack, kids can be a huge help.
6 Reasons to Get Your Kids in the Kitchen
(1) It keeps ’em out of trouble. “Idle hands” and all that.
(2) It gives kids a feeling of accomplishment to be competent and helpful in the kitchen.
Even making toast is a big deal if you’re 3 years old. And when your 14 year old can make dinner from start to finish, you won’t be exaggerating when you tell him he’s a lifesaver!
(3) Lots of kitchen jobs are actually great sensory activities.
Things like carrying heavy groceries or mixing stiff cookie dough perform a calming function for kids’ nervous systems (called heavy work). So if your kids are going bonkers (my kids never, ever do that!), just put them to work.
(4) Work in the kitchen is great preparation for being organized in other areas of the house.
When your child puts away the silverware, he’s practicing sorting and organizing. You might just find his toys cleaned up in a similar way! If you teach him how to clean up based on the preschool method, it will be even easier.
(5) Kids need to know that some things take hard work and that it’s worth it.
That delicious dinner doesn’t just appear on the table; it takes time and effort to prepare. When kids are involved in the process, they’ll have a greater appreciation for what goes into their food.
(6) Kids will need this knowledge sooner than we realize.
Of course we all want our kids to have at least basic kitchen skills by the time they leave the nest.
So what jobs can kids actually DO in the kitchen?
To keep it simple, invite them into whatever you’re doing in the kitchen. Kids love to do things like:
- setting timers
- stirring pots (supervised and while standing on with a sturdy stool if necessary)
- setting the table
- refilling bulk ingredients (sugar, oats, flour, etc.)
- washing pots and pans (great fun for preschoolers!)
- filling and emptying the dishwasher
- getting themselves snacks and drinks
- learning to make simple recipes all the way up to full meals
As they get older, you can teach them to use a checklist like my printable kitchen cleaning checklist for kids. There’s no reason that kids can’t do a good chunk of the clean up after meals by about age 10. This leaves you free to tend to littler ones if needed or take care of a few extra things on your to do list before starting the bedtime rush.
Allowing kids to help in the kitchen does take more time…
Yes, it takes more time to let kids do a job. You might end up with some burned cookies and broken dishes. We had smoke alarms going off just last week! But that’s part of life and kids also need to learn that it’s OK to make mistakes, in the kitchen, and elsewhere.
Many hands really do make light work and when kids pitch in in the kitchen, it makes mom and dad’s job so much easier. Plus, it can be fun to work together as a family!