This meme is SO true! Breakfast, lunch and dinner. And snacks. Endlessly. All day. Every single day. Did I really sign up for this? Feeding a family can really be the doldrums unless you have great help. Here are a few of my very best secrets:

1. Let them help young (even when they aren’t much help–it will pay off later)

Little ones always want to be next to mommy and doing what mommy does. Let them, even when you know it means a bigger mess to clean up. They will learn that cooking is fun and be more willing to participate as they grow older.

2. Make fun things

I know you want to ward off cavities and grow strong, healthy bodies. Me, too! But you can find lots of recipes that are fun and simple and yummy and healthy. Check out the kid favorites recipes on this blog for starters! And I have found it best to relax a little about treats and let them make cookies when they want–to instill a love for baking and a healthy attitude toward food.

3. Let them choose

I have a few favorite cookbooks I like to hand my kids to look through. I know that I am okay with the recipes in those books, and they have very enticing food photographs, so I’m pretty confident my kids will find something that looks yummy to them. Once they’ve chosen what we’re going to create for a meal, and given them some responsibility, they are much more willing to participate. They are also usually very proud of their creations, which builds confidence in the kitchen which increases a desire to work there… You see? As they get a little older and more capable it’s fun (for both them and me! Go figure!) to give them a night of the week to choose the menu, write ingredients on my shopping list, help shop, and create the meal all by themselves.

4. Praise them like crazy

One of the very best things you can do to help your kids love cooking is to praise them for what they create. Don’t criticize.

I’ve learned the hard way that nothing shuts a kid down like criticizing their efforts. Instead, you need to be present, instructing and helping so that they can have success. And if they do make something inedible, laugh about it and teach them how to fix the problem with humor instead of criticism.

I sew a lot and well, and I remember my Grandma making me pick out seams and re-sew them straight. I didn’t mind and kept sewing, but for some reason when I tried the same technic with two of my daughters, with whom I was sewing quilts, it shut them down completely. They won’t sew at all. I am going to try again, with different teaching methods.

I think that in my case I was okay with criticism because I really wanted to sew. We didn’t have much money growing up and I knew if I wanted nice clothes I needed to sew them myself. Because I sew, my girls don’t really have a need or a desire to. If I want them to like sewing so that they will want to, I need to make it a positive experience. (Not necessarily fun, but not horrible.)

5. Talk and laugh and have fun

Cooking, because it is pretty menial and mindless and must be done many times every day, is the perfect vehicle for building relationships! Turn on some tunes and sing out loud, hierarchy will dissolve, and you will have some of the best talks you will ever have.


And finally, because realistically you will still be in charge of most of the meals, this is how you assure that you always have a cute and funny kitchen helper to keep you cheerful through those doldrums:

Make yummy things and let them lick the beaters. Really. Your kids will fight over who gets to help you in the kitchen.


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