The Skill – Cooking for Kids
Learning how to cook involves more than just standing in front of a stove. The larger process involves with I call meal prep. It’s everything you need to do in order to get to the point where you can actually stand in front of the stove and cook a meal. Meal prep has become a necessity in our home. Like most families, we try our best to eat healthy. We try to add variety to our menu and feel it’s important to eat together as a family. Before we starting meal prepping I would hear:
I don’t like broccoli!! You can’t make me eat it.
Can I just have a bowl of cereal?
Fine, then I’m not going to eat anything
Do you hear the same things? Are your kids picky eaters? Learn how you can get rid of the dread you feel when you wake up and try to figure out what to feed your kids. Or you realize it’s noon, everyone is cranky and they need lunch. Or, you look at the clock and it’s 4, 5 or even 6pm and realize it’s time for dinner.
Don’t worry, you can learn how to teach your kids how to cook. You can involve your kids in each step of the meal prep process. Let me say, I was a little skeptical about the benefits of involving my kids during each step, but our results have been pretty amazing.
There are 5 steps to put together a meal:
- Meal Planning
- Grocery Shopping
- Food Prep
- Cooking the Meal
- Cleanup After the Meal
I’ll be honest, when we told the kids we wanted them to help with all of the aspects necessary to put together a meal they COMPLAINED. They didn’t want to add anything else to their list of chores and they were definitely not interested in doing more work.
Don’t worry, I said, when you’re an adult, you’ll get to do ALL of the chores by yourself. Plus, no one will remind you to go grocery shopping and no one will help you when you’re super busy or really sick. They soon realized their limited chore list wasn’t such a bad deal.
This post is an overview of all things meal prep for kids. Over the coming months I’ll show you how we break down each task step by step.
The What – 5 Steps to Teach Your Kids How to Cook
One of my major goals as a mom is to raise my kids to be better than me. I want them to be more prepared as adults, learn life lessons earlier and learn more skills. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s that I truly understood how useful it was to have a system for meals. It’s a life skill all adults and families can benefit from.
Teaching your kids how to cook is super important. They will be able to adapt your family’s system to their own life when they go off to college and as an adult living on their own.
Let’s take a look at the 5 different steps involved in learning how to cook.
#1 – Meal Planning
The first step in meal prep is to plan what you’re going to eat. This is where your family comes up with all of the things they enjoy eating or new foods they want to try. The best part about meal planning is there are no right or wrong answers. Everyone gets to contribute and have a say.
Sometimes the meal planning task can get overwhelming. Here are a couple suggestions to help
- Have a paper on the fridge where family members write down their ideas on the go.
- Set your kids up on Pinterest and let them save ideas that look appetizing.
- Set a theme for each day of the week to narrow focus (Mon- Mexican,Tuesday- Italian, etc)
- Look through recipe books or ask parents/grandparents for family recipes
Once you have a good list of meals write schedule out your meals on a calendar. You’ll want to take into account days of the week that are busier than others. Make sure to schedule easy to prepare meals on those evenings.
#2 – Grocery Shopping
The second step in meal prep is to go grocery shopping. Consider taking your kids to the grocery store. Initially, this task can be torture for everyone involved, but over time, this step can teach kids several life lessons.
Don’t get me wrong, I have been the mom with three young kids who did my best to get out of the store with my sanity. Now I’m at a point in life where I can actually go to the grocery store by myself. And sometimes that alone time is my only refuge during the day. So why would I torture myself again and bring my kids to the grocery store?
I do it so I can teach them how to grocery shop.
If your kids are little, you probably want to hold off on talking about name brand vs generic or figuring out the best price per oz. But for those of you with older kids, it can grow into a fun experience.
#3 – Food Prep and Batch Cooking
The third step in meal prep is food prep or batch cooking. In an effort to be more healthy and save time, we are trying to each more vegetables and cut them up ahead of time. Whether you decide to cut up veggies, cook part of a meal, or batch other routine food prep chores, your kids can help.
My kids are in the early stages of learning to food prep, and in all honestly, I haven’t done a lot of food prep myself. It has been fun to learn along side them. We’ve made some mistakes, but we are learning together. It has been a lot of fun. So far we have made all of these foods in advance – grilled veggies, cooked and refried bean in the instant pot, chicken, brown rice and shredded cheese to freeze and use later.
Check out this article at Eating Well – A Beginner’s Guide to Meal Prep. Depending on how often you grocery shop you will be able to prep for a couple days up to a week in advance. Make sure to label what you’ve prepared with the date.
#4 – Cooking
The fourth step in meal prep is to actually cook the meal. Can you believe it took three steps before you were actually cooking? No wonder making dinner can feel so overwhelming. It takes a lot of effort and preparation.
Consider who is currently doing the cooking in your home and find creative ways for your kids to help. Start out by asking your kids to gather cooking supplies and ingredients. Learning where things are in the kitchen is a really good place to start. Kids love setting timers and stirring. As you teach higher skill cooking tasks, teach along side them until they are proficient on their own. Before you know it you’ll be able to completely hand off big cooking tasks to your kids.
Tailor the cooking to fit your family. You can assign each kid a day to cook something specific or maybe your older teen can cook the meal on their own. The key to cooking is practice. Let your kids practice, practice, practice.
#5 – Cleaning
The fifth and final step of meal prep is cleaning up after everyone has eaten. Make sure everyone in your family has a clean up responsibility. A few examples of a clean up responsibility are
- Not dumping their plate of food on the floor when they are done (I feel you toddler moms!!)
- Clearing your dishes to the counter/sink
- Loading the dishwasher
- Hand washing pots and pans
- Wiping down the table or sweeping under the table
- Starting the dishwasher
When all family members help the chore gets done faster.
The Support – Make Meal Prep Work for You
Dinner time can be overwhelming for moms. You’ve had a busy day and now you have to tackle making a meal for your family. If you haven’t done any prep work for dinner, you’re starting at Step #1 – Meal Planning.
You’re thinking – what are we going to have for dinner tonight? It’s not surprising that your go to is something easy from the freezer, take out, or even a bowl of cereal. And depending on the day you’ve had, you probably skip Step #5 entirely – Cleaning – so you can run off to another activity or get the kids ready for bed. Then you start the next day stressed because the kitchen is still messy from the previous day. Consider dialing it back and once a week sit down with your family to meal plan. Start at step 1 and work your way through. Create a system that works for your family.
If you already have a great meal prep system in place, get your kids more involved. Yes, kids also have busy schedules, they are young, they will make mistakes and you can likely do each task better and in less time. But kids need to learn how to take care of themselves.
In starting this blog and writing posts I’ve realized how much I need to learn as a mom. Being a mom meals loving your kids enough to dedicate effort and patience to teaching them how to take care of their own life. Yes, it can be easier to take over and get the task done. But trust your kids enough to let them help more and more.
Bonus – Visual Exercise
It’s not always easy to get kids on board with new things – especially a new chore or learning a life skill. Help your kids realize they will be learning new things their entire life. Try this object lesson to put things into perspective.
Ask your kids the following questions:
- What can a baby do? Hold your hands close together – maybe an inch apart – and say yes, a baby can eat, sleep, cry, etc.
- What can a 5 year old do that a baby can’t do? Hold your hands farther apart – maybe a foot apart – and say yes, a 5 year old can talk, walk, get dressed, and is learning all about numbers and letters, etc.
- How about a 16 year old? What can they do that a 5 year old can’t do? Hands a little more than shoulder width apart. Say, yes, a 16 year old can drive, have a job, is getting ready to apply to college, etc.
- What can an adult do that a 16 year old can’t do? Hand fully extended to the side. Say, yes, an adult has a job and is responsible for paying for everything they need, has a family, etc.
You can go through this exercise once a year or as often as necessary to remind your kids how much they have learned. Make it personal and point out specific things they can do now that they couldn’t do before. Remind your kids that they are capable of so many aspects of their life. Let them know it’s your job to help them as they learn everything they need to know to be a successful adult. Tell them how proud you are of their accomplishments.
This exercise is very visual so they can see they do know a lot, but they still have more to learn. It’s important to point out that you as an adult are also still learning. Talk to them about new things you’ve learned or what you want to learn in the future.
Leave a comment below and tell us all about your wins teaching yours kids all about meal prep!
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