Breakfast is a family affair in our home. With one child aspiring to be a chef and another who tries to be a master of all, it’s easy to come up with delicious breakfast ideas. My youngest independent student, my 7 year old daughter, is learning to set the table. While learning the difference between the salad fork, dinner fork, soup spoon, tea spoon and tablespoon, she is also learning their proper positions on a place setting. The boys usually do the cooking. They can now slice, chop, dice and grate as the recipe requires. At age 9, my son has graduated to using a “real” knife! We started with the ambition to eat healthy, wholesome, homemade meals and so things going on the breakfast table have to be made from scratch. Today, we had berry crepes with homemade triple berry sauce and fresh squeezed orange juice.
Recently, my son felt like having hash browns and spent fifteen minutes just grating potatoes. They measure, mix, and even take care of the messed up food. As they have to prepare and plan a meal, my kids are now getting interested in grocery shopping and keeping tabs on what is going bad or running short in the refrigerator. They look at the ad mailers to keep me informed of what is on sale, where and until when. What I can do for breakfast, others may already be implementing with lunch or dinner. The point with kids in the kitchen is simple: empower your children to eat healthy, grow healthy and stay happy.
Nationwide, programs like Kids in the Kitchen, Growing Gourmets and YoungChefsAcademy are gaining huge popularity as more and more parents see the benefits of having their children experience life in the kitchen. According to the Kids in the Kitchen initiative, having kids make their own food “is the best way to get them to eat healthy.” As parents we don’t necessarily need to sign our child up for a cooking class. We just have to accommodate them in our daily kitchen schedule. When we afford our children the time and space to explore and experiment with something as important as a meal, we give their self esteems an immense boost. We tell them we believe in them and we accept their mistakes. We give them the chance to grow and partake in a ritual so basic yet so important that each family goes through it three times a day. Not to mention that we can sneak in some math, reading, spatial thinking, chemistry, physics, nutrition and health science, cooperative and team building skills all into the same project, even before home-schooling starts.
Of course there are days when we’ll have plain old oatmeal, but it’s the creative cooking days that we all look forward to. Sure there are accidents that happen; spilt milk, broken dishes, wasted groceries, excess sugar or spice, burnt toast, seeds in the orange juice and sometimes even a cut finger or a small burn may occur, but they are tended to immediately and things move on quite quickly after that. Needless to say that kids in the kitchen will definitely need adult supervision at all times and sometimes projects will need to be completed by the teacher (usually happens when ideas and outcome don’t seem to match), but the effort will renew itself in just a few days with new found enthusiasm and you can go through the cycle all over again. Now if someone can help with how to get kids to do the dishes with just as much enthusiasm, I’d love to hear it!
Shaheen Rasheed is a homeschooling mother of four, residing in CA. She consults families interested in homeschooling and runs a blog on parenting and homeschooling issues. Check out www.soulfulstudies.wordpress.com to read more of her work.