Ah, January…Christmas is over. Winter is really setting in. The second semester of school is starting. Time for routines and a fresh start.
Everyone is making resolutions. Maybe you want to eat healthier, lose weight, get stronger, pay off debt, cook more homemade food, start meal planning, get organized or simply slow down life a bit. Or you’re like me and you don’t really make resolutions, but adhere to these goals for everyone.
But have you ever thought about your parenting resolutions?
Often we think of parenting as surviving or just getting through each day without too many tantrums or arguments. But there should be more to it. You have to be intentional about how you parent. And you have to know what your end goal is.
Raising Responsible Kids
This year consider making it a goal to raise responsible kids.
Do you want your son to know how to cook as an adult? You have to teach him.
Do you want your daughter to know how to change a flat tire? You have to teach her.
Kids don’t just know how to do things. As a parent, it is your job to teach and guide them.
One of the best places to start is in the kitchen! I’ve had my kids in the kitchen with me for the past ten years. And we’ve been doing the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse for the past three years. It is where we’ve made lots of memories. It is where my oldest and I have our best conversations. My kids seem to open up and get talkative when we work together cooking and baking.
I dreamed of being a mom since I was five years old. And now as a mom of four, I truly love caring for my kids. But I know my end goal is not to have my kids dependent on me (thankfully I’ve still got a really little one to help me feel needed for a while yet!).
My goal is raising responsible kids. I’m training them to put me out of a job.
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Letting Kids Take Over the Kitchen
It’s not always easy. When we’re crunched for time to make dinner I tend to shoo them out of the kitchen. When the baby is crying and the preschooler wants to help slice potatoes I have to tell her not right now.
But as much as I am able I try to let my kids learn valuable life skills…and gradually take them over. This includes all sorts of tasks like sorting and folding laundry, loading and unloading the dishwasher, vacuuming, and taking out the trash. The list of chores for kids could go on and on.
Today I’m focusing on the kitchen since that is where I spend half of my day. Here are ten kitchen duties your kids can learn to take over NOW.
Scrubbing and Peeling Vegetables
I don’t know about you, but I hate peeling vegetables. Hate it. Potatoes, carrots, rutabaga, parsnips – all of them. It’s messy (our potatoes and carrots come right from our garden…from the dirt to my sink!). It takes too long. And I always seem to be in such a rush that I nick my finger with the peeler.
Any chance I get I hand this duty over to my seven-year-old and ten-year-old. Half of the time my daughter opts for watching her baby brother while I do the peeling. But the rest of the time it’s nice to have my kids take that job.
Scrubbing and peeling vegetables is something even a two-year-old can do. Cucumbers and zucchini are good veggies for young children to peel. They get to practice and feel a sense of accomplishment.
Chopping Fruits and Vegetables
This is the task my kids fight over the most. Maybe they just want to use their own special knives (the big kids have their own sets). It doesn’t really matter to me. I love the help!
My preschooler is always our fruit salad maker. She likes to slice strawberries and bananas and cut apple and pear slices into chunks. She also loves to peel and slice cucumbers when we have veggies with dip or hummus.
The older kids are usually on duty for chopping cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage. Those are our favorite vegetables to roast.
And I think I hit the jackpot with my oldest. She loves to peel, seed and dice tomatoes! We grow and preserve a lot of produce. Of all the preserving I do the tomatoes are my least favorite. Last summer my ten-year-old did ALL of the tomato prep work. All I had to do was cook and can – the easy part!
Now we have a pantry full of homemade spaghetti sauce, salsa, chili sauce, and tomato sauce. My daughter learned to take over a task and saved us tons of money since we won’t have to buy any tomato products all year.
Browning ground meat is a pretty easy task. You can even do it in the Instant Pot! But don’t overlook it just because it’s easy for you. Browning meat is a very important kitchen skill to master. Once your child knows how he can cook so many meals.
In our house, my son is the taco maker. Always. He even created his own taco seasoning recipe.
We eat tacos, avocado taco bowls or nachos quite frequently. My kids think it’s because they taste good. But really it’s because I want to give my kids lots of practice browning meat! As an added bonus I can work on preparing the toppings and side dishes without having to babysit the meat.
My kids also like to help make sloppy joes and casseroles to practice their stovetop meat cooking skills.
Preparing Crockpot and Instant Pot Meals
We all know that both slow cookers and the Instant Pot are time savers. Set it and forget it.
Well, they are even bigger time savers if you don’t have to do the prep work! I love letting my kids do prep ahead meals. They don’t have to work with anything hot so it’s safe for little ones. Plus they feel such a sense of accomplishment making a whole meal versus just a side dish.
My preschooler has been my go-to split pea soup maker since she was two. She also loves to help make chili in the crockpot.
All of the previous skills like peeling, chopping, and browning can come together here to make a full meal. It’s all hands on deck. Each child/skill level can help in some way.
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My 4 kids and I created the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse to help bring real food and independence to families all over. Over 10,000 kids have joined us and we want to make it as easy as possible for you to get your preschooler into the kitchen and start learning real cooking skills right away.
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I love to bake. I have since I was a child. And I’ve been baking with my kids since my oldest was nine months old.
It’s not surprising that she now has a passion for baking too! Baking is a bit different than cooking. A recipe has to be more precise. But the end product can often lead to creativity.
My daughter asks to bake cupcakes on a daily basis. Mostly because she wants to decorate them. So we have a steady stream of cupcakes here.
Because she loves to bake, my daughter quickly learned how to follow a recipe and make food start to finish on her own. After little sister gets the pea soup going in the crockpot I just tell my oldest we need muffins to go with it. And off she goes. Forty minutes later we have delicious muffins.
This has been a hard task for me to let go. Did I mention I love baking? I even had a small cake decorating business for a while! But life is so busy right now that I am grateful for the help. And my daughter is so proud of herself. She even baked a huge batch of cookies for Dad for Christmas. She is a gift giver. And it’s fun to allow her to give the gift of homemade food to others.
I know all parents will jump for joy at this one. Yes, it is true. Kids can pack their own lunches. And quite easily.
After dinner get out the lunch containers and let the kids divvy up the leftovers. Add in any extras like raw veggies, yogurt, muffins, nuts, cheese and fruit. All while Mom and Dad deal with the dinner dishes.
Everything gets done in half the time, no food goes to waste and the kids are more likely to eat their lunches since they chose what went in.
No leftovers from dinner? No problem. Remember, kids can easily chop fruits and veggies. Then add in those easy proteins and starches. Done. If you need other lunch ideas this list of mason jar lunches is great!
Loading and Unloading the Dishwasher
This task may not be quite as exciting as using knives. But it still needs to be done. My oldest has been on dishwasher unloading duty for over a year now. And it’s a slow process. She tells me often how boring it is.
I’m a big fan of letting my kids follow their passions and spending lots of time developing the skills to excel at them.
BUT I also want them to learn that sometimes you have to do the not so fun or more challenging work.
Do I want to vacuum for the third time in a day because my kids won’t eat over their plates and baby brother will quickly find whatever gets dropped? Do I want to change the baby’s clothes again because he peed out of his diaper? Do I feel like wiping the bathroom counter where little kids have spit toothpaste…five minutes after I cleaned the bathroom? Not really.
But I do it all anyway. And I try (most of the time) to do it without complaining. I want my kids to learn that some work is enjoyable. Some is not so much. But it still has to be done. And you can do it with a cheerful attitude.
And maybe your kid is math-minded like my son. And loading the dishwasher is like a puzzle. Kind of fun. Either way, it’s a great task for kids!
Do you let your kids wash dishes or do you say no because you don’t want a mess? It’s time to start saying yes.
In case you haven’t noticed, kids love to play in the water! Why not let them wash the dishes while they have some fun?
In our house, Dad is the dishwasher. But if he is out of town my kids beg to take his job. I don’t complain!
This is a great task for kids with sensory issues. Dishwashing includes lots of different textures. It’s a fun way to expose a child to getting wet if they tend to shy away from it.
Organizing the Refrigerator and Pantry
This is another great job for those logical/math-minded kids. It’s kind of like real life Tetris.
When I go grocery shopping I usually have all four kids with me. They are learning how to make a list and stick with it. But the best part is when we get home. I have to run in to feed the baby. In the meantime, they unload the groceries from the van and then start putting food away.
I admit I don’t let them put things in the refrigerator. At this stage, I still do most of the meal planning and prep. I like to know what’s in the refrigerator, what needs to be used up first, etc. But my kids do the rest. They stock the pantry, cupboards, and freezer. Sometimes they actually fight over this job!
I am a planner extraordinaire. I have to have a plan or I feel stressed and nothing gets done. But I’m human. Sometimes I just don’t know what to cook!
That’s when I enlist my kids. They are full of good food ideas! Their suggestions don’t always fit into our schedule for that day or week. But I try to find ways to use their meal ideas if I can. I especially love it when they can help cook the meal they plan.
We haven’t quite reached Katie’s skill level of her kid’s planning and cooking dinner at least once a week. But we’re getting there. And it’s a great goal to work on!
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An Opportunity for Growth
Every little step you take now towards raising responsible kids will pay off down the road. Not just for you, but also for them.
We are a homeschooling family. I do my best to finish all of our school work in the morning (we’re early risers!) so my kids have all afternoon to play and explore. Lots of time to just be kids.
But I am also teaching them about responsibility at a young age so by the time they leave home they will be capable and independent (no matter how much I love feeling needed…that’s what grandkids are for, right?).
Spending time with my kids in the kitchen also gives me more opportunities to observe them and see what tasks they gravitate towards. I love to see where they excel and where they need help so I can give them more opportunities to shine and encourage them with challenging tasks.
If you set no other goals this year, make this one – for your kids to put you out of a job!
A gift from our family to yours!
My 4 kids and I created the Kids Cook Real Food eCourse, an online cooking course for kids, to help bring real food and independence to families all over. Over 10,000 kids have joined us and we want to share the love – please grab your FREE copy of
10 Snacks Your Kids Can Make
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