Here at My Little Poppies, you will find posts about many different topics: education, homeschooling, family, nature, books, and games.
You will not find recipes.
Because, the truth is, I tend to spend more time dancing in my kitchen than actually cooking in it.
It can be challenging to balance all the things!
But, sometimes, when we follow our children’s leads, amazing things happen.
How to Enjoy Cooking With Children
[When You Don’t Like to Cook]
Here’s the thing: I don’t like to cook. I’ve always been a health nut and, as such, I make sure my family is eating well… but that doesn’t mean that I’m an amazing gourmet cook or that I enjoy cooking.
I am not and I don’t.
Over the years, I’ve tried to love it. I’ve gone through phases, hellbent and determined.
Fake it til I make it and all that jazz.
The truth of the matter is, there’s always something else I’d rather be doing.
Or something I felt like I should be doing.
To me, cooking is boring.
I wish it wasn’t, but it’s the truth.
Or … it was the truth until the most amazing thing happened. It involved my daughter and a manifesto and heaps of togetherness and I’m talking about it all over at Simple Homeschool today. Do me a favor and head on over there, right now, to get the backstory for this here lil’ post. Go on, I’ll still be here when you get back!
I’ve learned that cooking alone is boring, but cooking together is fun!
My daughter presented us with the now famous manifesto in November, so this cooking together thing has been going on for a while now.
And it’s still fun.
It’s more than just a phase, folks.
It’s evolved into a thing…. a thing we all like to do.
Benefits of Cooking with Children:
Cooking with your children carries a host of educational benefits:
- Health and nutrition
- Life skills
- Planning and organization
- Social skills
Take cooking with children to the next level by creating a restaurant!
Now, I can’t take credit for this idea because my kids thought of it. Once we started cooking together, they wanted to turn our kitchen into a restaurant. At first, they invited me for breakfast or lunch. Next, they surprised my husband when he got home from work. Finally, they invited their grandparents over for a weekly restaurant.
The great thing about the restaurant is that my children cooperate and have fun together while working on even more skills. Every week, the restaurant changes. This means they must menu plan, help shop for food, double and sometimes triple the recipe, share jobs and responsibilities, create a restaurant name and menu, design signs and decor, and serve and clear food*.
*If we are being honest, they often lose steam by the end and I end up serving and clearing but it’s completely worth it. They are so proud of themselves and happy as they plan these special days.
Our children have already planned the following restaurants:
- Soup and salad restaurant
- Thai restaurant
- Laura Ingalls themed restaurant
- Homemade pasta for Valentine’s Day complete with candle making course (by kids!)
- California rolls
- Mac and cheese restaurant
- St. Patrick’s Day delicatessen
- Half Birthday Party
- Mardi Gras “King Cake” party
The following restaurants are on their collective wish list:
- Fondue party
- Pizza parlor
- Dessert bar
Not quite ready for a restaurant? Try this…
My kids now do our meal planning. I kid you not. I hand them our favorite cookbooks and they each pick one dinner. We make a list of necessary ingredients, shop, and then we have at least three meals for the upcoming week planned and I have at least one willing helper for each meal!
So, What do you need to get started?
1. Basic Tools
You’re also going to need a good cookbook or online recipe site. I prefer cookbooks because my children can pour over them and decide on favorites and whatnot. Here are a few of our favorites, two are GF/dairy free because we have some intolerances in this casa:
Against All Grain: Delectable Paleo Recipes to Eat Well & Feel Great by Danielle Walker
A photo posted by MyLittlePoppies (@my_little_poppies) on
If you feel like going beyond basics, here are our favorites:
2. Books to take learning to the next level
You didn’t think I’d write this post without book recommendations, did you? Here are some titles to get your children talking about food, nutrition, and health!
Good Enough to Eat: A Kid’s Guide to Food and Nutrition by Lizzy Rockwell
Garden to Table: A Kid’s Guide to Planting, Growing, and Preparing Food by Katherine Hengel
How Did That Get in My Lunchbox?: The Story of Food by Chris Butterworth
Why Should I Eat Well? (Why Should I? Books) by Claire Llewellyn
3. Additional Hands-On Learning
You can take that kitchen learning to the next level with these ideas:
- Field trips– Take the kids to a local farm, nature center, garden center, farmer’s market, supermarket, or restaurant. During the field trip, talk about your food! Talk about where it came from and how far it has traveled and what is in it or what is not. One of our favorite activities is gleaning. Have you heard of it? Gleaning is gathering leftover crops to use that would otherwise go bad. We have fantastic local gleaners and we join them in collecting fruits and vegetables to be delivered to local food pantries. Gleaning is a wonderful way to learn about local seasonal crops, to enjoy the outdoors, and to help others.
- Gardens- Last year, we planted a garden. It was a wonderful way for our children to take ownership of something. We invested in some kid-friendly gardening tools and gloves so that they could help us out. We recently added a wheelbarrow for our children to use. We can’t wait until we can plant our garden, but until then…
- Plant indoors!- When we first started homeschooling, I invested in a simple root viewer and I still cannot believe how much we have used it already! The kids love to place a different seed in each tube and notice how different plants grow over time. This year, they will be getting a Backyard Safari Co Sunny-Side Up Gardens, Little Bunny Garden in their Easter baskets. I know they will love them!
- Visit a nature center- Our local nature center has beautiful gardens. We love to explore nature together. We simply grab our nature packs and head out to explore the plants around us. My children have learned so much about local plants and foods this way!
- Play!!- You know we love our games over here, folks! Here are a few fun ones for your dinner table:
4. Books for parents
You didn’t think I’d leave you guys out, did you? Here are some great books on childhood hands-on learning.
The Importance of Being Little: What Preschoolers Really Need from Grownups by Erika Christakis
The Dirt Cure: Growing Healthy Kids with Food Straight from Soil by Maya Shetreat-Klein MD
The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age by Richard Louv
A photo posted by MyLittlePoppies (@my_little_poppies) on
Keeping it real
Now, I don’t want you to think that it’s all kitchen sunshine and roses over here. Cooking with kids is messy and sometimes things go wrong like you see here:
A dear friend gave me this sign, which I keep over the stove as a reminder. The mess is worth it… even when the crepes fail!
I used to think I hated to cook. My daughter helped me realize that I hate to cook alone.
Children are our wisest teachers. I have learned so much from my three and I’m grateful.
The wonderful thing about homeschooling is that there is more space in the day. We are able to plan meals and prepare them together, learning all the way. We aren’t shuttling from place to place and trying to squeeze in meals at odd times. We can be mindful about the selection and preparation of our meals. I am thankful that we have this time together as a family.
Tell me: Do you like to cook? What have you learned from your children lately? Share here!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool and GeekMom. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, and Scary Mommy. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram