Weeknight cooking is a bear, am I right? You’re trying to get a halfway-decent, halfway-healthy meal on the table in record time as you decompress from your workday before it’s time to dunk the kids in the bath, read a little Dr. Seuss and Goodnight, Moon and put the kids to bed. So, if you’re able to involve kiddos in the kitchen during the week, it’s kind of a miracle.
But the weekends — in theory, anyway — allow for a bit more relaxed meal prep. Not to mention you might be making breakfasts or lunches in addition to dinners. As you think about your weekend meals, give some thought to a few ways you could involve your kiddos and let them be a part of the process. (And guess what: It can be easy! It really doesn't take much for them to feel like they helped.)
Here are 15 ways to get you started:
- Meal planning. At dinner Friday night, throw out some options for meals and let the kiddo have a vote.
- Grocery shopping. Take your kiddo to the store with you on Saturday morning. Let her pick a veggie or fruit. Let her check the eggs for cracks. Invite him to look for expiration dates.
- Stirring. My almost-2-year-old can’t get enough of stirring. Salad dressings, marinades, pancake batter. Give him a whisk and a bowl of liquid, and he’s a happy little dude.
- Spicing. My kiddo is also a big fan of adding the spices. He shakes (er, pours) salt and other spices onto veggies and into marinades.
- Measuring. If you’re sticking to a recipe (or baking!), you’ll be busting out the measuring cups and spoons. Invite the kiddos to measure and pour. For younger kids, you can measure, and they can pour.
- Pushing buttons. Even the littlest of sous chefs like to turn on the mixer or food processor.
- Shucking and peeling. Even without a knife, kiddos can shuck corn or peel garlic. With older kids, hand ‘em a peeler and potato and put ‘em to work.
- Juicing. Older, stronger kids can help squeeze the juice out of citrus. Littler ones can "help" you.
- Timing. Let them set the egg timer (or count as high as they can!).
- Rolling. If you make anything with a dough, hand over the rolling pin and let the kiddo take a shot.
- Tearing. From tearing lettuce for a salad to pulling herb leaves off the stems, this knife-free activity is a good one for little helpers.
- Shaking. Coating fish bites with a crust or chicken with a marinade? Throw everything in a freezer bag and let the kiddo shake it up.
- Pounding. Tenderizing meat? Who doesn’t want their shot with a mallet?
- Plating. Let kids have some creative fun and join in on the plating. Not just setting the table, but actually putting the food on the plate. Maybe they can help shake some powdered sugar over the French toast or add a sprig of rosemary to the main course.
- Tasting. If your kiddo isn’t exactly digging cooking, that’s OK. To each his own, right? But what about tasting as you cook? This way, they get to be involved and give input and learn a little bit about the trial-and-error process that is cooking.