I have a confession: I love cooking alone. There is nothing more relaxing to me than spending a weekend afternoon in the kitchen with a podcast and comforting homemade pasta recipe. So the thought of opening up my sacred cooking space to six little hands grabbing utensils and dropping bottles of olive oil had me a bit uneasy.
Luckily though, being home together during quarantine forced me to be more flexible in my cooking rhythms, and I’m liking what I’m learning along the way. The three kids and I have spent almost every afternoon baking bread or preparing dinner together, and it’s become one of the fun things to do at home that we look forward to.
If you’ve been spending more time at home as a family, pull together a list of healthy dinners for kids and invite them to work alongside you. I will always crave my Sunday afternoons of solo meal prep time, but cooking with the kids has brought new and unexpected joy to our family. And hey, if it doesn’t work, there’s always carryout!
The Kids Really Can Help
When I resigned myself to the fact that the only way I’d be able to cook during quarantine was with a team of tiny humans, I braced for unavoidable messes and constant arguing. There was a bit of that, but I was shocked at how much of the recipe they were able to handle on their own. I keep an eye on the oven and stove, while the kids take over mixing, pouring and reading the recipe out loud. When making Irish soda bread last month, even our 17-month-old happily helped with kneading the dough.
I Have to Meal Prep Alone, Though
Sure, making memories together in the kitchen is something I’ll cherish; but dinner still needs to get on the table. I’ve found that batching meal prep ahead of time means I’m able to go slower and feel a bit more relaxed when it’s time to cook together.
If you or your spouse have some time alone over the weekend, pop on some music or a podcast and knock out the cooking tasks that are too hard to accomplish with kids around. For example, I’ve been chopping vegetables ahead of time. Keeping all three kids engaged (with hands to themselves) is enough of a challenge without worrying about sharp objects within reach. Prep what you can!
Start Ahead of Time
This goes without saying, but cooking with kids will almost always take longer than anticipated. As soon as I accepted and embraced that fact, cooking together became more fun. Instead of watching the minutes tick by and rushing them to stay on track, I decided to start preparing dinner ridiculously early. Now, it’s an activity rather than just a task to cross off the list.
Make It Fun
Think about what keeps your kids engaged in a task. Maybe you could listen to the Frozen II soundtrack while you cook or have the older kids put their math skills to use when measuring ingredients. Pull out a cookbook and ask them to help you plan some fun meals kids love. Look for easy, small ways to enjoy the process together. Even though these are difficult and uncertain times, there are still opportunities to create memories that will be cherished for a lifetime.