See that family in the front row at church–where it’s an open playing field to the altar with not so much as a chair or half-wall to circumvent a child’s attempt to join the sermon? The ones trying to wrangle the busy one-year-old and keep him from waltzing up on the altar?
That’s me. The late ones. Stuck in the very front row, where no one wants to be, especially with a toddler whose goal in life is to assert his independence and explore the world.
It’s chronic. As a real foodie, I make a homemade breakfast every day of the week, no boxes or mixes included.
For a while, my attempted solution was to serve cereal on Sundays and forego the classic image of a big hot breakfast on a weekend morning. My kids, ages 4, 7 and 10, could actually serve themselves more or less, so it also allowed me a little “Sabbath” rest sleeping in and less cleanup–thus ,our hope of leaving on time. It was a pretty decent system (although I still managed to be later than I’d like for church). But we moved cereal day to Fridays now and are back to a big production on Sunday mornings.
Except I’m still not making breakfast. It’s not because I don’t want to cook a nice breakfast for my kids or set aside the Sabbath as a special day–I do. But I want them to have skills, too. I figure my kids could look back fondly on childhood Sundays and the tradition of a big pancake breakfast and roast chicken dinner, and it would be nice. Warm. Fuzzy. But memories don’t a healthy life make, and if my kids don’t know how to cook for themselves, a cozy reminisce isn’t going to get them very far.
Who Wants Fish for Breakfast?
You’ve probably heard the Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It applies easily to charity projects, but also to parenting. Imagine your children when they’re all grown up and out of the house–not only will there be no toys underfoot in your house and far less laundry, but you’ll no longer have a say in what they eat and do with their time.
When I picture those days, I want my sons to be the young men wooing their lovely brides with a from-scratch meal that knocks her socks off (but nothing else, ahem!) and also shows her that he cares enough about himself to eat his vegetables and care for his health.
Who Has Time for Vegetables?
I know many moms feel that they just don’t have time to cook from scratch when they’re juggling the demands of parenting children in our culture, and I hear you. With four kids and a business to run, sometimes take-out pizza and cereal sounds like a doggone well-rounded day to me too. But since I write about cooking real food, I’d kind of be a hypocrite if I gave in to those temptations. I’m sorry you don’t have that excuse to help you out! Maybe I can give you another answer.
As my kids get older, I’m realizing that the solution to healthy eating AND sanity all in the same household lies in one place: My kids need to learn to cook.
Do Your Kids Use a Big Chef’s Knife?
This summer I set out to teach them. I even invited their closest friends to make it a “real” class that I couldn’t skip just because I felt busy or tired or overwhelmed. We worked through all sorts of basic kitchen skills, from peeling veggies to frying pancakes, from sharp knife skills to making a homemade cheese sauce.
As a former third grade teacher, my instincts took over and I designed an integrated curriculum that weaves over 30 basic skills through 24 lessons, eight at each age level. So, I applied these same techniques to my cooking class: on a given day, all three age levels generally worked together to create a meal or snack that everyone could share, and it was a beautiful thing.
Now I assign my kids one dinner and one breakfast each week to cook. Since they’re in school full time with different start times and weekday evenings can get zany, we chose Saturday night and Sunday morning.
So that’s why I don’t cook Sunday breakfast anymore.
I’m the one sitting at the table with my bulletproof coffee, watching the chaos. Usually I’m realizing that I’ll soon be sitting in the front row at church, chasing my busy one-year-old away from the altar…but with a satisfied, nourished belly and an even bigger sense of satisfaction from starting the day with a good parenting decision.
QUESTION: What do you like about including kids in cooking? What holds you back from inviting them into the kitchen?
CHALLENGE: Commit to taking a baby step toward food independence this week for your kids. It might be something as simple as discussing why you eat what you eat. For little ones, you might let them butter their own toast or learn to carry a plate to the sink. Or you might want to consider really teaching some cooking skills to your school-aged children…but where to start? Here’s how it’s going for me:
Still No Garden of Eden
That coffee thing was a pretty nice scene to picture. In reality, I’m usually still buzzing around and doing something, even if I’m not the one flipping pancakes or cutting fruit. Last week the kids poured beans all over the stove and mixed the water into a recipe before cutting in the fat, but we keep getting back on the horse! So far they’ve chosen a variety of dishes for Sunday breakfast, like waffles or pancakes and eggs, or less time-consuming things like simple oatmeal with a smoothie or a “monkey salad”–sliced bananas, nuts, coconut, and milk. They like to add their own flair with raisins, chopped apples and more.
If you have more than one child, this is finally an activity that you do all together with a positive, practical result. Here’s what some of my 40 reviewing families are saying:
“This is what I envisioned a kids cooking class to be–everybody learning new skills and working together on a result they can be proud of. My daughter cannot wait until the next lesson!”
“My kids loved cooking a real meal and were so proud to serve it to Dad when he came home from work. And they loved that they all had a real, tangible way to help prepare the meal. All of my kids from age one to eleven were in the kitchen together, and while it was chaos at times, it was a beautiful family memory. I loved hearing my kids remind each other of some of the things from the videos. This was awesome!”
“I loved that I was able to work with my kids in the kitchen and not get frustrated! Thank you!”
I’m excited to share this with more families, so much so that I can’t even keep the videos inside the course. From January 4-18 you’ll be able to use our system for teaching kids of all ages knife safety and basic skills. Get the free 3-part video training series now so you have time to plan a day to watch with your kids and practice things like “Rock-a-Bye Knife,” the “Up and Over Solider” hold and other fun and practical phrases that will be a “big gift” to you and “empower” your kids, as one mom described the series.
Another mom with kids aged 8, 7, 5 and 3 did the free series and her husband “remarked that their knife skills were very much improved after just watching those few videos.”
Are you ready to teach your kids to cook so that they’re ready to take care of themselves when they’re 18? Start now!
Post images provided by the author.
Feature image from FreeDigitalPhotos.net/rakratchada torsap, with graphics by Anna Jenkins.