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Jan 10 / suzanne

The Joy (Sometimes!) of Cooking with the Kids

I recently instructed my boys to sit at their tyke-sized table in the kitchen and pull apart fresh dill in preparation for making Orzo Salad with Tomatoes, Feta, and Dill. I figured the job would keep them busy while I ran out to the garage fridge.


When I got back, maybe 2 minutes later, the stems were scattered on the floor, Ian had Toby in a headlock and both boys were screaming. (Though I didn’t witness that fight, I did catch the one in the above video.)

And still . . . I cook with my kids.

I was inspired to involve them more after writing a Parents piece on dealing with picky eaters. My guys happen to be good eaters (my payback is that they’re lousy sleepers). But cooking has exposed them to new ingredients and gotten them excited to try what we’ve made (“Kale, Mom!”).

They’re proud when we deliver a dish they helped with, and I have a handy excuse when my dishes come out screwy. I’ll just say, “Toby dumped in too much cumin.”

Cooking with 3-year-olds take extra time, makes a big mess and can test your patience. But then again, I’m already slow in the kitchen, and I already make a big mess, and my boys fight no matter what we’re doing. So really, the only one who suffers here is my husband, who’s in charge of the post-clean-up clean up.

Here’s a list of cooking tasks that are fun for 3-year-olds, collected from my own experience and from nutrition experts such as Amy Hendel, author of the terrific book The 4 Habits of Healthy Families.

Let your kid:

•Stir ingredients.
•Tear lettuce.
•Push the blender button.
•Pour liquids.
•Dump pre-measured ingredients into a bowl.
•Rinse beans.
•Crumble blocks of feta.
•Pull dill, thyme or other herb leaves off the stems.
•Stir (as long as the pot isn’t hot!).
•Spread sauce with a spatula.
•Tap eggs on the side of the bowl (you finish cracking).
•Layer food in a crockpot.
•Mash bananas or potatoes.

I’d love to get more ideas for my boys, so send in the cooking tasks you give your kids! Looking ahead, I’d like to know: What do 4-year-olds and 5-year-olds like to do?

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