Christmas has come and New Years Day is here!!! We went from running (literally) from bus stops, work, activities, playdates, doctor/dentist appointments, basketball games, church and so much more to well.... crickets.... While I would like to say that I just relish in the love and joy of the special, special, precious moments with my children, I'll be honest. The combination of an overly programmed life coming to a halt, too many Christmas cookie sugar rushes, the let down from the holiday build-up and just pure boredom, can lead to a very frustrated home for both moms, dads and kids! Getting my kids in the kitchen with me on a cold day is one way that I can get some stimulation, creativity and sometimes cooperation out of them!
I tend to always have this idealic picture in my head of how my dynamically, inventive and educationaly amazing activites will play out with my kids and then there is reality. It is sort of like those Pinterst Boards that show how the project was supposed to be, and then the 'nailed it' boards where they depict how it really turned out. That about sums up my life and kitchen time with my kids. With that being said, I have truly found some 'GOODS' of getting my kids cooking with me.
First, it just gives them something constructive to do that does not involve a screen (that alone is a win in my book)!
Second, it really does help develop those important reading skills from preK and on up. Find a good recipe and work with your child to read you the steps. This may look like pointing to the few words that the child knows at a very early age or could be much more advanced by having your child read all of the steps.
Third, cooking offers great opportunity for those fine motor skills. Depending upon age, activities such as cracking eggs, cutting, rolling, mixing, chopping, sorting, peeling, etc. all help develop that small muscle dexterity that helps with writing schools and much more.
Fourth, cooking provides priceless practice with multi step directions! This is a skill that is also critical for the youngest to the oldest and complexity will vary based on such. If my Kindergartner can remember 3 to 4 steps in a recipe, that is a great skill and sometimes more than I am able to accomplish.
Finally, I find that I can have some really nice dialouge with my 3rd grader. Over the past year or so, my parenting piece of the equation has pulled in some real elements of social, character and moral development. While we are not having heavy, philosphical dialouges while chopping onioins, I do learn what happened on the bus, hints of how the dynamics of his friendships are going or even how he felt about his math test. I find this time to be truly, truly invaluable and perhaps the #1 reason why I decided to put Corporate America on the shelf. My fancy work clothes, sense of tangible accomplishment, and general feeling of being 'on top' of something collects a little dust so that I can make sure that I can be the one to connect with my kids.
As I said... there is what I invision and then there is well... what happens. I'll be honest, my first trip in the kitchen rodeo was well underwhelming at best. I started with my 1st born when he was about 2 years old and was expecting a magnifcent swirl of flour, love, fun and laughter that was following by a happy meal with the family together. uh-huh... Yet, that doesn't mean to abandon the mission. I have a few things that I try to tell myself so that I do not set myself up for utter dissapoinment.
First, I pick my moment in the kitchen with them. I am not hauling my two kids to my side to help me prep breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even if the meal involves some sort of activity that they could help with, I sometimes need a few minutes of the day to mindlessly and quietly prep. I used to feel like a 'bad mom' because I was not capitalizing on that precious opporunity, but I try to cut myself a break. Sometimes (on the days in between pizza, taco tuesday, chinese take-out, and a combination of 'creative' leftovers, I like to just have a glass a wine and cook a meal in silence. That's okay!!! So, I pick my moment with them. Sometimes it may be a couple times a week and sometimes it does not happen at all! The sooner I cut myself a break, the much happier cooking time became.
Second, start out small! I think this is a pretty big one for me as managing expectations continue to be a struggle for me in all areas of life. Up until the age of 5, I learned that a 'side cooking project' was the way to go. If we were baking cookies that were actually supposed to look presentable and be consumed by humans, I would give my daughter or son their own piece of dough to create with. I also found these adorable mats from IKEA (love that place) and told them that they could do ANYTHING as long as it stayed on that mat. It helped them to get dirty and messy, but not in a ridicouls way that just made my clean up beyond unenjoable. As they got a little older, I could involve them in more of the 'real' task activities. This little trick helped save a lot of tears for young and old and mostly old.
Third, practice, practice, practice with a touch of patience. Like anything else, the skill of bringing your kids into the kitchen with you will take a moment. You will both have to develop some boundaries (by that I mean a level of sanity that you can deal with). Through practice, I learned that my daughter can crack eggs better than me and my son... well he can sometimes just set the table for me.
Overall, cooking has to be done. Some love it and some hate it. On some days I think I am a master chef and on other days I wonder why God came up with a plan where people really needs to be fed 3 times a day, EVERY day. Regardless, I try to get a moment (just one) from time to time with my kids in the kitchen and consider that a win!
As a mom, I love to know what my children are discovering during their days and I am sure you do too! Stop by here anytime to see what fun & learning we are up to!