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My 8 year old is fascinated about cooking. He wants to try new recipes every time he is with me in the kitchen. Following him, the younger one is also showing little interest in cooking and now wants to assist me in whatever I do in the kitchen. They like to wash the vegetables, sometimes they peel and cut vegetables also, make curd raita, make sandwiches, lemon juice, milkshakes, tea, ready to cook noodles, etc.
Though I don’t encourage them to roam around the gas stove, they don’t listen to me sometimes and want to cook for themselves. This whole experience is fun filled but at times, I get frustrated as they don’t allow me to interfere and want to do everything on their own. We end up arguing with each other as I don’t like to see messy kitchen. It is time consuming too. So, to avoid this frustration, I came with a solution. I worked on a trick. I figured out which tasks are developmentally right for them. I have divided the responsibilities as per their age. Tasks for the elder one include clear the table, set the table, pour the drinks and be involved in food preparation. The younger one can sprinkle the seasoning, stir the soup and rinse vegetables.
I started working backwards to make the things more organized - planning meals which they can easily cook and they love to eat! I want to serve my family healthy meals but when kids are cooking, I make sure the recipe is quick and easy. I already add oats to my regular recipes and now I have included a few ready to cook oats recipes in my daily meal plan to make the meal time interesting and ‘colorful’. Quaker recently launched a few flavors of oats which are equally nutritious and my children loved all flavors. They can easily cook these oats. Apart from oats, they help me clean leafy vegetables, make daliya (porridge), make popcorn, peel sweet corn, peel peas, etc.
On weekends, we work on the whole week planning that includes: grocery shopping, menu planning, cooking, serving and cleaning up task. Now it has become more of a family event. Previously, only I was doing everything from scratch. Now everyone in the family is given responsibility. It has made my work easier. I used to feel overburdened and tired all the times, but after distributing the tasks, I am more relaxed and can do my work more efficiently.
I had to plan on how to make a better and happy meal time with my in-laws and children. After penning down small details about their likes and dislikes and health issues, I could achieve it. I focused on the meal to be cooked. We shifted our focus from Television and cell phone to the food we ate. I distributed the responsibility of washing the vegetables and peeling, cutting, etc. After the cooking is done, serving and cleaning is equally important. Since my kids love cleaning table, after helping me in cooking, I gave them the responsibility to set the dining table for dinner.
We have a ‘star chart’ on the wall in their room where they get one star for every good thing done. This way, we have reduced our arguments and are working together happily. Now they are always ready to help me as they will gain one star for one work. And after a certain number of stars, they are surprised with a gift or movie or outing to their favorite place.
To make the meal time happier, we talk about fun and happy things happened all through the day. We ask questions to encourage them to open up with us. We share our childhood memories with our children. It helps reduce our stress level. Since we all are having the meal together, we encourage children to try different foods which they usually used to avoid. We offer them healthy foods and let them choose from them. We don’t lecture them or force them to taste or eat the food we eat. The see we are eating a variety of foods, so now they also started tasting. I am sure in the next weeks; they will develop their taste buds for all home cooked food.
There are many benefits of cook together, eat tighter:
It gives us perfect moment to talk. We share a laugh and strengthen our relationship while cooking.
The importance of food (cooking and eating together) has been scientifically proven to develop bonding between children and parents.
It is a pleasure and improves sociability.
It takes a little more work initially to bring everyone together for meals but it’s worth it.
Together we eat better.