Turning the Kitchen Over to Kids

“What’s for dinner?” Writer Leslie Kaufman turned this around when she gave each of her kids the responsibility of cooking dinner once a week. Six months into this change in routine, she offers insightful suggestions on getting kids into the kitchen. From the New York Times:

My Sons the Sous-Chefs

…I cannot remember exactly when it occurred to me that my children should be cooking dinner for me instead of the other way around.

It almost certainly came at the end of a typical long workday: I rush home from the office, start hustling in the kitchen even before my coat is off and then, maybe 15 minutes later, a child stumbles downstairs from playing a video game. He peers into a bubbling pot and moans, “Not pasta again,” or “Don’t you know I hate tomatoes?”

So, about six months ago, I asked each of my sons, ages 14 and 10, to cook dinner once a week. I was not proposing a heartwarming mother-son bonding experience. I made it clear that they could cook only when an adult was in shouting distance, but the goal was to have them plan and execute the meal on their own while I commuted home or ran errands — or drank a glass of wine on the couch.

The boys did not protest too much, mainly because I offered a reward. Our longstanding routine had them cleaning the kitchen after dinner under my husband’s supervision — loading the dishwasher, scrubbing pots, wiping counters, sweeping the floor. Now I was offering a get-out-of-jail-free card: You cook; we clean. They were elated by the idea.

And I was not just throwing them into the deep end of the pool. They had already helped me a lot in the kitchen and learned basic safety rules, like not leaving the room when a burner is lighted, and how to hold their fingers when chopping. They had mastered making a few dishes from scratch: popovers, biscuits, pasta carbonara.

All the same, their shaky progress from apprenticeship to control involved a steep learning curve — about recipes and planning, techniques and strategies — for all of us. A half-year into the experiment, I am pleased to report that despite a minor burn, there have been no house fires and all fingers are accounted for. We’ve had some yummy home-cooked meals. And, best of all, my boys are proud of their handiwork. Read more…

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