Knowing how to prepare real, whole foods is an absolutely necessary life skill that every child should learn. Children who are not taught the basics of food preparation will end up defaulting to processed, packaged foods, simply because they haven't learned to make anything better.
If we don't take the time to teach them, how will they ever learn?
I know that having little (dirty, mischievous) hands in the kitchen isn't always the easiest or most convenient thing. Kids make messes. The put in the wrong ingredients. Things get spilled. Eggs get dropped. You can sweep up more flour when you're finished than what was actually put into the recipe. It takes longer than if you just did it yourself.
It can also be incredibly rewarding. I've been letting both of my oldest children help mama in the kitchen since they were about 1 1/2 years old. Naturally, the "helping" looks different depending on their age and skill, but they love it nonetheless and I know that no matter how small, they are still learning valuable life skills alongside me.
I recently noticed that my 5 year old daughter has grown significantly in her ability to knead bread. She didn't really get the concept very well up until now and sort of played around with the dough, but today her motions were much smoother and more consistent. I praised her for this, and informed her that pretty soon I was going to be able to just ask her to make the bread for our family, instead of mama having to do it every time. She beamed proudly, and went back to kneading her own little portion of bread dough.
We all have frazzled moments where it's easier to do it ourselves than to invite our children into the process. I can often be guilty of this, whether it's because I'm frantically trying to get dinner on the table at 5:57 with a crying baby, or when I'm scrambling to make the house presentable before guests arrive.
My own stress and impatience cause me to undervalue what could be an opportunity to take my child under my wing and let them learn to help me. The results might not be perfect, but I have never regretted the moments when I have slowed down enough to invite them into the things that I am doing.
In what ways are you successfully training your children in cooking and homemaking skills? What are your weak areas?
** This post was originally published February, 2010. As I look back on it, it is both wonderful to see how my children (especially my oldest daughter who is now 6 1/2) have really become more proficient and helpful in the kitchen, and at the same time I am reminded and challenged to purposefully include them even more than I do. **