This is a guest post from Jami of Eat Nourishing. An absolutely inspiring guest post, I might add. I need to talk to my 7yo son about doing dishes, methinks…he’s been unloading since he was 3 or 4, as you see below, but we kind of got stuck there.
If you’ve been cooking traditionally for any amount of time, you’re bound to have run into challenges: challenges of resources, challenges of abilities, challenges of knowledge and challenges of time, especially if you are like me and are playing catch up trying to figure out the whole homemaking thing after coming to a conviction that having a career outside of the home probably wouldn’t best serve your family. I’ve been reading blogs, books, mentoring under godly women and everything for the past five years and still feel like I have a long way to go, but I have learned a few golden nuggets along the way.
Probably one of the most valuable tidbits I learned when running a traditional real foods kitchen is that you shouldn’t try to do everything yourself, if you can help it. That’s right, we need to let those controlling tendencies go. Delegate and teach. Not only do we (eventually) get a little much needed assistance, but we educate our children along the way about the importance of nutrition and having the discipline to make wise choices about our food preparation.
I happen to have two little girls, ages seven and three, who will likely grow up and have to run a household someday. They enjoy playing mommy and basically being my shadow. I take this time to teach them valuable skills in the kitchen now, so they won’t have to learn them later, plus I get a little relief. Okay, sometimes it’s not much of a relief when I know I can do something in less than half the time it will take them, but it is worth it for the skills they are receiving. I also have a little boy that I want to teach to do his part of household chores as well.
Getting your children to work in the kitchen (and actually enjoy it!) is not as difficult as you may think. Start small and work your way up, gently instructing them and thanking them for their help along the way. I am going to give you a few practical ideas that I use with my children, but some of them I’m saving for when they are a little older and more skilled. Obviously, you know what your children are capable of more than I do, so use your own discretion. This is by no means an exhaustive list. Get creative thinking of ways to get your children involved in the kitchen.
Most of all, remember you are investing in your children now so that you both will be rewarded later, them with valuable kitchen skills and you with some much needed help.
This ties in so perfectly with this week’s Monday Mission – thanks, Jami!
Ages 18 months to 3 years
During this time, your children will need guidance, instruction and a lot of help, but can do quite a bit. You might be surprised!
- Put away and sort clean silverware (I take out the sharp knives first)
- Put silverware into the dishwasher
- Rinse some dishes–just not heavy or bulky ones
- Scoop out beans and grains into a bowl
- Stir non hot items
- Shake out the tablecloth
- Hold the dust pan
Ages 4 to 6 years
Children should be able to do all of the above with less guidance and help needed, but will still require significant instruction for below items.
- Measuring out grains, beans and flour and the stuff to soak them in. This is a great opportunity to teach them about fractions! After a few times, I could tell my daughter that we needed to soak 2 cups of beans and she was able to measure them, put them in a bowl, rinse, fill with warm water, add lemon juice and cover. She did the work, I only had to tell her how much. Yea!
Washing (probably not the best washing and you may have to go over it again afterward) off the table, counters and other kitchen surfaces. (No more getting on hands and knees to get those baseboards!)
- Stirring hot things with supervision
- Setting timers
- Rinsing all but the heaviest dishes
- Pulling ingredients out of the refrigerator and cabinets that are needed to prepare the meal.
- Roll out dough and cut shapes
- Press the buttons to process things in the food processor and blender
- Clear the table of dirty dishes
- Set the table
Ages 7 to 10
By this time, if you have been training your child for some time, they should be familiar with kitchen practices and be a significant help in the kitchen.
- Unload and load the dishwasher
- Wash dishes by hand–unless they are particularly difficult to wash items
- Dry and put away dishes
- Sweep the kitchen floor
- Prepare scrambled or boiled eggs by themselves
- Cut up some veggies and fruits that are not too hard or slippery
- Grind flour
- Soak grains, beans, nuts and flour
- Prepare foods for the dehydrator
- Help prep for lactofermenting
- Make a batch of kefir, water kefir or kombucha by themselves
- Make a smoothie by themselves
- Pull items from the freezer to defrost
- Prepare simple snacks like Mock Larabars or Homemade Peanut Butter
Ages 11 and up
By this time most children read fairly well and hopefully have a pretty good understanding of how the kitchen works. Supervision in some areas is still necessary, but they should be able to take a lot more responsibility. We hope to give our oldest daughter one meal a day to prepare by this time.
- Follow real food recipes to prepare simple meals
- Do pretty much any kitchen chore
- Begin helping with menu planning
- Prepare a grocery list based on a menu plan
- Do just about any preparation for the next day’s meals
Do you have anything to add to this list? What are some of the ways you get your children involved in the daily kitchen duties?
About Jami Delgado
Jami is the editor of Eat Nourishing, the recipe sharing website completely dedicated to real foods! She runs EN with the help of her amazing tech-y husband, Anthony, who is a full time seminary student. Jami has three children that she homeschools while trying to educate herself in her various interests of homemaking, gardening, vocal training, professional writing and classical literature.