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Involving Kids in Mealtime Routines

by Quincy from Michigan

I’ve found involving my kids in my mealtime routine to be hugely beneficial in a variety of ways.

First off, it is helpful! Giving them tasks that they can handle takes jobs off of my plate. It also teaches them valuable life skills. Cooking is a valuable life skill. But beyond that, working together as a team, being careful with kitchen tools, general nutrition, and using caution in small spaces are all valuable life lessons as well. Cooking with your children helps them feel like the important, valuable addition to the family unit that they are. Cooking is a great way for them to contribute, to feel needed. It’s also a great time to connect with your family in an easy, approachable way. Use this time to have a one-on-one conversation with your child about things they like or don’t like, things they want to do and learn, etc. Another huge advantage to me is that cooking with your kids gives them a sense of ownership over the meal. For us, this has greatly increased our kids’ appetites when it comes time to eat.

"Daddy, did you try the guacamole? I helped make it!"

Our kids have tried and enjoyed many new foods that they otherwise might turn down simply because of the pride they feel in helping make it. 


It's easy to see why involving your kids in meal preparation is a good thing to do, but it’s another thing entirely to actually do it.

Where do you start? Well, as it turns out, it’s not as hard as it sounds! Likely, getting them interested in helping will be the easy part. Kids love to help! However, it may be daunting to safely involve them. And even more daunting, it can be time consuming at first. When you are rushing to get dinner on the table, waiting for your child to slowwlllyyy peel an orange can feel like an eternity. But over time, they will peel the orange faster, and they will be able to take on more and more tasks. I suggest starting with helping to set and clear the table. Helping with dishes is also a good place to start, and fun! Kids love water. (Side note, my grandma always said that when kids are irritable for no obvious reason, put them outside or put them in water. It works every time!) I also suggest investing in a stool of some sort, to safely put little kiddos at counter height, and some kid-safe knives. 


Shopping for the week’s meals also presents several valuable learning opportunities for kids.

With 4 kids, I don’t take them all shopping on every trip. However, I do always take one. We have a rotating schedule and each kid gets their turn. I highly suggest this for families with multiple kids, because it allows you to have some one-on-one time with your kid that feels special. As parents of multiples know, especially when they are little, you don’t often get to spend alone time with just one kid, and doing so helps develop a very important aspect of your relationship with them. I also make sure to involve my kids in the shopping process; they hold the shopping list, they help pick out which flavor or type of item. When they ask for candy or toys, I often say “that is not on our list this time and it is important that we stick to our budget”. And of course, when I can, we do get treats, but they are special treats! Most often, the treat will be a favorite fruit, or maybe a fruit or veggie we’ve never tried before. 


All in all, I highly recommend including your kids in mealtime preparation. It really is fun!
 

This blog was written by one of our guest bloggers, Quincy.


About Quincy

My name is Quincy and I live with my husband, 4 kids, and a cat and dog in Northern Michigan. My oldest daughter is 5 years old, we have twin 3.5 year old girls, and our son is 10 months old. I work full time as does my husband. We both are thankful for flexible work schedules and daycare help mostly from family. My husband is an avid hunter and my favorite hobby is gardening and growing food for my family. We spend a lot of time as a family enjoying the outdoors with lots of family hikes, gardening together, and taking bike rides.


 

Want more information on this topic? wichealth.org has many free online lessons. Check out one of our favorites titled Making Mealtime A Family Time in the Feeding Your 2 to 5-Year-Old category.

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