I love to eat. Thankfully, I love to cook, too. Since I don’t exercise as often as I should (still working on that), I’ve compromised with myself. If I want to eat it, I have to make it. That way, I can be assured I’m eating minimally processed food, and I can feel better about my food choices. All calories are not created equal, and the more “real” foods you eat, the easier it is on your hips (or thighs, or whatever). Plus, I’m less likely to eat cookies or cake if I have to make them from scratch.
So, with that as my goal, you can imagine I spend a great deal of time in my kitchen, and therefore so do my kids. And in doing so, I’ve inadvertently created a 5-year-old assistant chef, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Claire wants to help with everything, and she also has a lot of ideas on how to do things. Our weekday dinners are usually pretty quick and easy (wraps, noodles, lots of roasted veggies, etc.), so I don’t mind when she pulls up her step stool and starts stirring things, or adding some herbs, or a pinch of salt. When kids are part of the process, they build a strong connection to the nature that feeds us, and are more likely to try something new. There are occasions, however, when I have to move quickly and focus (like when Seanie is starving and clinging to my leg screaming), and I need her out of the way, so what to do? Here are a few of my favorite distraction techniques:
- I have her sit down with some veggies, a small knife, and a chopping board, and ask her to make the salads. Softer veggies, or previously cooked veggies are easier to work with- something like raw carrots just wind up shooting across the room.
- We have a little 2 cup blender that she can operate, so I’ll give her some oil and vinegar and her pick of herbs and spices, and ask her to create a dressing for the salad. Some turn out better than others.
- We make our own fermented sauerkraut, and she’s often in charge of salting and squishing. Interested in making your own? Here’s our easy “how-to” so you can get started!
- If the weather permits, I’ll hand her a basket and some scissors and ask her to harvest our dinner. Even if she comes back with dandelions and chives, we can always make something out of what she found.
- Throw down some bowls, the mortar and pestle, and some wooden spoons, and you’ve got the makings for a creative factory! The last time I did this, I gave them some oats, dried lavender, fresh rosemary, and some salt. They spent a good 20 minutes scooping and grinding and playing, then we filled a muslin bag with their concoction. We let the bag soak in their tub, and they had themselves a wonderfully fragrant oat bath! So nice for their skin in these harsh winter months!
I’m truly ecstatic that Claire shares this interest with me, and I fully intend to groom her to be making our dinners someday. In the meantime, I want to continue to foster her enthusiasm as much as possible, while still getting done what needs to be done. Do your kids want to be a part of the kitchen action? What’s their favorite way to help? xo