It's probably not a surprise that I like to include my kids in the kitchen on a regular basis but as often as I cook with kids, I still struggle with all the same "mom" instincts when I am home in my own kitchen, working with my own children. I have patience for days with other people's kiddos and am able to easily laugh off messes but in my own kitchen, find that my patience is a little shorter and I can't as easily brush off the flower that "snowed" all over the floor or the butter smudged all over the counter. I also realize the time crunch dilemma, trying to juggle activities, school, house work, and so on. So friends, I promise, I understand the struggle, it is real, for all of us. But after 8 years of teaching kiddos in the kitchen I know the importance of incorporating kids into the food prep process. I have seen kiddos that struggle with picky eating become more adventurous and willing to try new foods. I have seen kiddos who "hate" certain foods, begin to eat them after cooking with them and being in charge of their own meal prep. I have seen kiddos come to understand how to mix flavors together, how to safely store food, clean up after themselves, learn the value of patience when baking and hard work that goes into preparing food. It takes patience, repetition, and practice.
It has always been my philosophy to mask the lessons in the kitchen with fun. Let kiddos feel that they are in charge, all the while I know it is a very controlled and safe environment. I always love incorporating math lessons while measuring ingredients and geography lessons when talking about where food and flavor profiles originate from. It is even a great opportunity to practice reading and comprehension skills when reviewing recipes. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, allowing kids to cook gives them a sense of value in that they helped contribute to something tangible and bigger than themselves (more than making the bed or picking up their clothes).
After years of watching me film segments for ABC30, my girls have loved emulating me in the kitchen. They like to pretend to film their own segments while preparing foods. I have set up ingredients for them and filmed them on occasion. Recently my youngest daughter has been making my lunches while big sis is at school. She asked me to film her so I obliged. The first time she made my favorite go to lunch of lentils with mixed greens topped with Trader Joe's Balsamic Dressing and parm cheese. Some of the clips are hilarious (and can be found on my instagram stories). A few days later she asked to make my lunch and film again and what you see below is what we did... "It's Lunch Time!"
For this recipe, I put the raw ingredients in front of her and let her figure out what to do. Cooking is so much about the flavor, the look, the smell and taste. Often times people get paralyzed by measurements and having to stick to a certain recipe. I would like to take this fear out of cooking. So instead of stressing certain measurements, I let her eye ball it, and of course taste a long the way to make sure the flavors were coming together. She definitely is very liberal with her tasting but that is an important step. Yea, the mustard didn't taste so good alone, but after mixed with everything else, the result was great. I just love how she said dumping the tuna fish in "scares" her... if we can get over little fears in the kitchen, imagine how we can tackle little fears in life. And yes, there was a little mess to clean up on the counter, and floor... but that's life too.
I encourage parents to give their kiddos raw ingredients that they can put together with ease. While you are prepping dinner, let the kiddos make the salad. They can tear the lettuce, or use a safety knife or if old enough, a real knife. Kids can cut cherry tomatoes with scissors. Slice cucumbers, if you cut them in half lengthwise to create a flat surface it will be much easier for them to slice. Cut a bell pepper in half and let them use scissors to cut it into strips. Don't stop there, why not let them mix up a dressing. Pour ingredients into a mason jar and let them shake it up. Add in olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and/or dijon mustard, s&p and maybe some dried spices or minced garlic. If they put this much effort into preparing a dish, they might be more inclined to eat it.... after all they don't want to have to admit they are bad chefs, right?
2 can tuna, in white
2 celery stalks, diced
1 pickles, diced
Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Spread over toast.
Garnish with avocado or micro greens
(Makes 4 servings)
Finding the patience to let the girls continuously mess up the kitchen, requires some serious yoga sessions. I recently got to take a few classes at Four Corner's Yoga, a new studio in town that is lightly heated and has a CorePower Yoga vibe (for those that are familiar). The owner is a fellow mompreneur and we partnered up with another kick ass mom boss, Mothersun & the Captain, for a giveaway. Head over to my Instagram page for the details and to enter. Who wouldn't want a 10 day pass to yoga and this adorable Stay at Om bamboo tank?! Thinking about trying out yoga classes, check out some pics of the studio below.