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Teaching Kids Cooking With "Kids Make Dinner Night"

Our weekly kid-made dinner is like a night out for parent, well, sort of.


My parenting philosophy has always been one of encouraging independence. When babies are born they need you to do everything, but even at birth they begin on the road to independence. However, as parents we become accustomed to doing things for kids. And we may find it harder to actually teach them how to do something rather than simply doing it ourselves.

But you know what they say about teaching a man to fish, right? So I'm teaching my kids to cook. Kids Make Dinner Night is my attempt to teach my kids cooking and working in a team in small, weekly doses.

Kids Make Dinner Night

It started with a groan. Someone asked what was for dinner, and someone had the nerve to groan at the answer. When I heard it, my head whipped around to see who made the sound, but no one would own up. So I snapped, "If you guys don't like it, why don't you make dinner?"

Cheers erupted. "Can we really?" "Let's make pizza tonight!" "Does this mean parents do the dishes?"

Not exactly the response I was expecting, but it only took me a second to realize I was on to something. (Though, I had to backtrack on doing it that night since my groan-inducing dinner was already under way.) At ages 12, 10 and 8, my kids are old enough to make dinner, especially if they work as a team. They have some basic cooking skills, but this is an opportunity for them to develop more. So I proposed kids make dinner another night.

When the kids started planning lasagna for tomorrow, I realized something like this could balloon into much more work for my husband and me than cooking ourselves. So we all sat down at dinner that night and came up with some guidelines.

Our Kids Make Dinner Night Guidelines

  • Kids Make Dinner Night will be Tuesdays (unless unforeseen activities cause us to reschedule).
  • All three kids must help, but one child will be designated the leader each week.
  • The leader chooses the meal, but must announce their choice the weekend before, when I go grocery shopping.
  • Mom will make an effort to accommodate the leader's reasonable choice but can veto anything.
  • We're starting off with easy meals that the kids mostly know how to make already.
  • I am giving my recipes a kid friendly makeover and posting them online for kids to use.
Even with these rules, I can see this is going to be more work on my part. But teaching kids independence is important. And also you have to strike while the iron is hot. A few years from now Kids Make Dinner Night may not elicit cheers, but at that point they should have the skills to put together a variety of meals.

And by the way, this does mean parent do dishes. We'll see if my husband and I can do them without fighting about who clears and who washes!

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