Let's get something straight: Letting kids help in the kitchen does not necessarily make dinner prep easier. At least not in the stage I'm in. Maybe in a few years, my son will be a true sous chef. (A girl can dream.) But for now, my toddler is picking up some skills, and I'm trying to pick up some patience.
After a day of working, sometimes you barely have the time and energy to cook at all — much less the time to spare to invite your kiddo to "help." That's OK! If you don't have the time or patience to bring your kiddo into the fold every night (and seriously, who does?), give yourself a break. Because the reality is that it takes longer (just like everything else in your life), it's messier and it requires more patience.
But as I was reminded tonight, little ones don't need much to feel like they're helping. Tonight my son was so interested in helping that he gave us zero grief about washing his hands and expressly said: "Help." (Despite my invitations to go play.)
From my perspective, I had been later than usual to pick him up and was still planning on working more after his bedtime. Tonight was a meat-and-potatoes night. I hadn't even planned a proper veggie — so I really didn't need an assistant. But he took his spot next to me in the kitchen, and I'm so glad he did. I'm always trying to think of new things for him to do, but repetition and simplicity have their place.
I sliced the potatoes and put them into a bowl. Then, my kiddo — with supervision — poured the olive oil and salt (I did the pepper). He grabbed the spoon and stirred.
Then — and he's never done this before — he started to spoon the potatoes onto the baking sheet.
This showed me he knew the next step, so even if he hadn't done it before, it's clear he's been watching. And even though it made the process take longer, I've gotta say: It was a lot cuter.
So, remember: Involving kiddos in the kitchen is awesome. Doing it every night can be patience-draining, so just do what you can. BUT it doesn't need to be as complicated as you might think.