Teach Your Kids Life Skills: How to Cook
One of the most challenging times of day as a parent is meal time. Whether you work outside the home, work from home, run your own business or are a full time home maker, meal planning and preparation is always one of the biggest time sucks of the day.
Add to that the fact that your efforts are often met with derision, sniffed and poked , examined closely and then ultimately rejected by those adorable little beings you brought into the world. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll get a nice little quip from those precious mouths relaying the results of their scrutiny of that beautiful meal you just laid before them.
With all the ungrateful feedback we get from our families and the busy lives we lead, it can sometimes seem like it’s just easier to swing by that favorite fast food restaurant that everyone loves and just call it a day (in the South it's a certain poultry nugget location with a red logo and the best lemonade you’ll find south of the Mason-Dixon).
While I feel your pain, I’m going to encourage you to resist the urge to eat out multiple times per week. Why? Because it’s expensive, low nutritional value, it teaches kids bad habits and encourages picky eating.
With childhood obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease on the rise, parents owe it to their kids to teach them healthy eating habits. You will not only make them healthier kids, but will set them up to be healthy adults. Parents cannot be short sighted when teaching kids eating habits – what your kids learn during the 18 years at home with you will be with them the rest of their lives.
Teaching your kids to cook is a valuable life skill that will remain with them for a lifetime. It will not only help them to be self-sufficient, but it also integrates them into keeping the household running. If you have middle and high school aged kids, you shouldn’t be the only one planning and preparing meals.
Here’s how to start:
1. Teach kids from a young age to eat what you prepare. My kids know that while they may not be crazy about the day’s menu, dinner is dinner and there will be no other food prepared or allowed during that meal. I am not a short order cook. You are not a short order cook.
2. Have kids help with the weekly meal planning. Set parameters on the meal. For example, all meals must have 2-3 vegetables and a protein. This formula works for most diets. If you can do grains, add a grain to each meal. When the kids understand the parameters and help plan meals, you'll have less push back when the meal shows up at the table.
3. Get kids used to leftovers. When you have kids and a busy schedule, having to cook every day can be the death knell to any attempt at nutritious, home made meals. Another parameter that I put on our meal planning is that the meal must be one that can last for at least 2 days. The best meal is one that can last 3 days. So it works like this: Meal 1 on days 1,2 and 5; Meal 2 on days 3, 4 and 6. You can do something special for day seven or make that your pizza or eat out day.
4. Involve kids in meal preparation and teach them how to cook it. This is huge. Kids are not likely to reject a meal that they prepared.
I know this works! My kids and I made one of their favorite dishes, coconut curry chicken. I set out all the spices, had them taste and smell them so that they would understand what they were adding and how they affected the taste. I chopped what needed to be chopped. And then they went to work, mixing and stirring and cooking (I stand there and monitor them over the open flame but let them do the work for the most part).
When we all sat down to eat, there was something missing, but they didn’t say ANYTHING. I couldn’t figure it out but something just wasn’t right! We all ate in silence, but they did eat. An hour later it hit me – I had forgotten to chop the garlic! This is huge, because you can’t have a proper curry dish without the garlic. When I told them that we’d missed the garlic, they were both SO RELIEVED. We added the garlic that night and the meal was delicious the next day. I can tell you that if I had made that no-garlic curry WITHOUT their help, I would have had nothing but whining and complaints throughout the whole meal. But since they “made” it, they ate it without one word of commentary.