Once a week, I let the boys peruse their cookbooks and choose what they would like to make and eat for their “Kids’ Night” dinner. With them being 4 and 7, the reality is that I am still technically making dinner, but they are assisting as much as they can. Besides the fact that the kitchen gets twice as messy, the benefits far outweigh that small cost, even for a neurotic mom like me. Let me count the ways.
1) It takes care of the formidable question for 1 of 7 nights: What are we going to have for dinner? This question can be the bane of many family cooks’ existence. As a result, we have often been stuck in a rut eating spaghetti the majority of the week. And I do mean majority. You do the math. That’s a lot of pasta.
2) Speaking of math, it helps with our family’s ongoing operation of “Nerds in the Making.” Cooking and baking are excellent early childhood tools for laying the foundation for later math and science concepts. If you love workbooks (ahem, Michael Beckett), then you should also love those kids’ cookbooks.
3) For me, I have two boys. I want them to learn to love being in the kitchen. I am fully aware of the gender roles they will grow up with in our family. They happen to work well for us. However, I want them to see beyond the traditional and break free from strict restraints. I hope one day their future spouses will thank me for having husbands who can whip up a meal and as a result, be too sexy for their shirts, so sexy it hurts. Gross. Now I have completely lost my appetite.
4) Their ability to choose their meal builds up excitement for that meal and helps to fight against usual childish pickiness. This is a big plus. They seem more willing to try new things when they have had a direct hand in creating those things. I’m not saying that cooking will eliminate all refusals to eat brussel sprouts. There is a reason Connor more often chooses the typical (bland) kid-friendlier options. But still, every little factor helps and this seems to do its part to some extent. When it does inevitably fail, there is always dessert bribery.
5) We bond. We make memories. My sometimes monotonous duty becomes an enjoyable past time with my loves. I get to cook with two adorable sous chefs. This also means that my title of “cook” sometimes coincides with “referee” and I do overtime as “mess cleaner” but it’s worth it. (I tell myself repeatedly.) 🙂
6) They have fun. They get excited about it and love to see the process of ingredients becoming a meal. They feel proud that they helped put dinner on the table. They join in the amateur food critic conversations that occur in the Beckett household. Ethan has deemed that so far his favorite Kids’ Night meal has been Rachel Ray’s “Eyeballs and Worms.” For those of you who know Mike’s love for bizarre foods, you know that this recipe could be literal. Rest assured, it was turkey meatballs and noodles.
Confession: We still eat spaghetti A LOT. But at least once a week, it is happy cooking, kids!